Colon mucosa with the distinctive organization in glandular structures formed of epithelial cells

Francesca Ciccarelli : Cancer Systems Biology laboratory

We are studying the faulty genetic networks inside cancer cells that drive tumour growth and evolution, so that we can develop more effective treatments.

Genes are the instructions that tell cells what to do, when to multiply, and when to die. Faults in certain genes lead to cells multiplying out of control and failing to die when they should, leading to cancer.

Over recent years, researchers have discovered many gene faults that are linked to cancer, but they have usually only been studied in isolation. We are investigating how multiple genes are controlled and work together in cancer cells, creating large aberrant networks that drive cells to grow out of control.

We are using large data-sets to find out more about these faulty genetic networks and find new ‘cancer genes’ in tumour samples taken from cancer patients, focusing on bowel and oesophageal cancers in particular. We are also investigating how these genetic networks evolve and change over time as a cancer responds to chemotherapy or becomes resistant and grows back after treatment.

Our work is revealing a deeper understanding of how the interconnected abnormal genetic networks in cancer cells fuel tumour growth and evolution, pointing us towards potential targets for the development of new, more effective cancer therapies in the future.