Sahai lab Tumour Cell Biology Laboratory

Co-culture of cancer cells (darker cells) with stromal fibroblasts (lighter cells) with a signalling molecule shown in green speckles.

We are studying the most lethal aspects of cancer: how it spreads through the body and why it becomes resistant to cancer therapies.

Most cancer deaths are caused by a combination of the disease spreading from the initial tumour to other parts of the body, known as metastasis, and it becoming resistant to treatment. Both processes can be hard to predict and are strongly influenced by the interplay of tumour cells with other non-cancerous cells in the body.

By carefully studying patient data together with experimental models we can start to uncover recurring patterns in the behaviour of cancers. In particular, we are carrying out in-depth studies of the cellular environment around a tumour, investigating the genetic and molecular changes that enable cancer cells to break away and start moving towards new sites.

For example, we are listening in on the signals that are sent between cancer cells and their neighbours to find out how they might accelerate metastasis or prevent chemotherapy from working. We are also using cutting-edge microscopy techniques to watch tumours growing and spreading in real time inside a living organism. And we are growing cancer cells together with normal cells from patients, using computer modelling to understand the complex molecular dialoague between different cells within a tumour.

Tackling metastasis and treatment failure are two of the biggest challenges in cancer research. Our work is leading to new ways to predict how the disease will spread, and pointing towards potential targets for treatments that might be able to stop it in its tracks.