Amato Giaccia announced as new director of the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology

The Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre is delighted to welcome Professor Amato J Giaccia (recently appointed as the new director of the MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology) to the Oxford cancer research community.

Professor Giaccia was recruited to the Institute for Radiation Oncology in Oxford after many successful years as director of the Division of Radiation & Cancer Biology at the University of Stanford, California.  He is internationally recognised for his contribution to understanding the role of tumour microenvironment, hypoxia, and HIF-1-mediated pathways in cancer.  He has more than 20 years of experience in Radiation Oncology research with over 200 publications, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and has been honoured with the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology’s Gold Medal. He also co-authored the widely used textbook “Radiobiology for the Radiologist”.

His distinguished scientific career has garnered him an international standing within the global Radiation Oncology community which, with a wealth directorship experience and global perspective on cancer patient care, ideally places him to lead Oxford’s Radiation Oncology research community. Prof. Giaccia seeks to build on the Institute’s existing expertise, integrate novel multidisciplinary fundamental research across Oxford University, and work with Oxford’s commercial, governmental, academic and charitable partners to ensure that patients across the UK receive the most effective radiation therapy treatment to fight their individual cancer.

Professor Chris Schofield, Head of the Department of Chemistry, said: “It is absolutely brilliant to attract a scientist of Professor Giaccia’s calibre to Oxford.  His work and expertise perfectly bridge Oxford’s outstanding basic research in cell biology and radiation oncology.”’

Professor Mark Middleton, Head of the Department of Oncology, said:   ‘The Department of Oncology is excited that Professor Giaccia has agreed to join us at such a momentous time to help us secure the future of OIRO and the contribution it makes to the world of radiation oncology’.

Oxford | Emerson Collective Cancer Research Fund – Request for Proposals

The Oxford | Emerson Collective Cancer Research Fund is requesting individual or team proposals for research projects related, but not limited to:

– immunotherapy,
– metabolic therapies,
– early detection advancements,
– ‘high risk/high reward’ initiatives,
– and/or -omic approaches to cancer and drug development.


Positive criteria include the potential of a project to significantly impact our understanding of and/or approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer.


Gift awards range from £50,000 up to £200,000 for up to 2 years for both direct and indirect costs. You may apply for additional funding for the same projects on subsequent RFP rounds, though new projects will be prioritized. This fund does not support incremental research.

Funding will be available early May 2019. Post-award follow-up will entail 12- and 24- month progress and financial reports.


Proposals are due on March 8, 2019 at 5 pm EST (see proposal submission guidelines).



Further details about the fund and application can be accessed here.
The form for budget costs can be accessed via this link.

Proposals need to be submitted via the Emerson Collective’s online submission portal. (Further information on how to access the portal can be found in the documents attached or requested from Claire Bloomfield.)


If you plan to share commercially sensitive information in your application please contact Claire Bloomfield to ensure the submission is covered by an Non-disclosure agreement.


For further information or questions please contact Claire Bloomfield via









Emerson Collective Website

Oxford | Emerson Collective Cancer Research Fund

We are delighted to announce a new funding scheme for innovative cancer research, through generous support from the Emerson Collective. Applications will be invited in early January 2019, but in preparation for this we are advising you now of this upcoming opportunity. The Oxford | Emerson Collective Cancer Research Fund will request individual or team proposals for research projects related, but not limited to, immunotherapy, metabolic therapies, early detection advancements, ‘high risk/high reward’ initiatives and/or -omic approaches cancer and drug development. Positive criteria include the potential of a project to significantly impact our understanding of and/or approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer.



This Funding Scheme will be open to all faculty undertaking research relevant to cancer at the University of Oxford.

A team of Oxford | Emerson Collective Cancer Research Fund employees and associates will evaluate the applicant pool.

Applicants will be evaluated on the following positive criteria:

  • The audacity and innovation of the research proposal. Incremental research will not be funded.
  • The potential of the proposed research to affect multiple cancer types
  • The potential to translate said research into further experiments, and clinical trials
  • The applicant’s lack of resources to pursue the proposed research
  • Compliance with a two-year maximum timeframe for research


The applicant’s prior experimental track record will not be the principal determining factor in evaluation.



Scheme opens for applications in early January.

Proposals due: March 8, 2019 at 5 p.m EST (see proposal submission guidelines below).

Funding available early May 2019. Post-award follow-up will entail 12- and 24- month progress and financial reports.


Amount of Funding

  • Awards range from £50,000 up to £200,000 for up to 2 years for both direct and indirect costs.
  • You may apply for additional funding for the same projects on subsequent RFP rounds, though new projects will be prioritized.
  • This fund does not support incremental research.
  • Funding is available to support personnel, supplies, equipment, and other general costs associated with the project. Provide a categorical budget outline for the project, see budget template for details. Indirect costs may total 15% maximum. It applies to the project costs and should be included in your budget request. Total budget request including the indirect costs should not exceed £200K.
  • All proposed budgeting must conform to the general policies of the institution.

Questions? Please submit questions to  Claire Bloomfield, email:


Please do get in touch if you plan to submit, to discuss University requirements and protecting any sensitive information you may wish to share.

Further information available in the Oxford Emerson Announcement and Guidance.

Workshop “Concepts in Translational Cancer Research”

We are delighted to announce the opening of registration for the first Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre Concepts in Translational Cancer Research Workshop on February 7th 2019.

The aim of the workshop is to support Oxford researchers meet the increasing expectations from research funders to be able to clearly and credibly articulate a projects relation to clinical need.

Professors Ian Mills, Francesca Buffa, and Deborah Goberdhan, and the Oncology Clinical Trials Office are running this event targeted at students, post-docs and junior PI’s interested in finding out how to apply their fundamental research to cancer.

Attendees will have the opportunity to find out more about widely used tools and techniques in translational cancer research and take part in a breakout session where they will get the opportunity to discuss their project with a relevant expert.

If you have ever found yourself asking any of the below, please feel free complete the below application form and return to by December 21st 2018, to register.

  1. Are genes or pathways that form a focus of my research perturbed or mutated in particular cancers or subtypes of cancers?
  2. Can these genes or pathways stratify patient groups in a manner that predicts disease progression or treatment response?
  3. Can any of the biological processes that I am studying be affected by clinically approved drugs or drugs that are undergoing clinical trials?  If so, how might I access those drugs and use them in my model systems?
  4. If it is not easy to answer questions 1-3 then what are the datasets and who are the people that I need to interact with to address these questions?
  5. What models and tools should I use to study further study the role of my gene/pathway in cancer?


Please fill in the below application form and send it to us via

Application form for “Concepts in Translational Cancer Research”



Please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Centre team if you have any questions or queries about the event (

New dual-action cancer-killing virus

Scientists have equipped a virus that kills carcinoma cells with a protein so it can also target and kill adjacent cells that are tricked into shielding the cancer from the immune system.

It is the first time that cancer-associated fibroblasts within solid tumours – healthy cells that are tricked into protecting the cancer from the immune system and supplying it with growth factors and nutrients – have been specifically targeted in this way.

The researchers, who were primarily funded by the MRC and Cancer Research UK, say that if further safety testing is successful, the dual-action virus – which they have tested in human cancer samples and in mice – could be tested in humans with carcinomas as early as next year.

Currently, any therapy that kills the ‘tricked’ fibroblast cells may also kill fibroblasts throughout the body – for example in the bone marrow and skin – causing toxicity.

In this study, published in the journal Cancer Research, the researchers used a virus called enadenotucirev, which is already in clinical trials for treating carcinomas. It has been bred to infect only cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone.

They added genetic instructions into the virus that caused infected cancer cells to produce a protein called a bispecific T-cell engager.

The protein was designed to bind to two types of cells and stick them together. In this case, one end was targeted to bind to fibroblasts. The other end specifically stuck to T cells – a type of immune cell that is responsible for killing defective cells. This triggered the T cells to kill the attached fibroblasts.

Dr Joshua Freedman, from the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford, who was first author on the study said: “We hijacked the virus’s machinery so the T-cell engager would be made only in infected cancer cells and nowhere else in the body. The T-cell engager molecule is so powerful that it can activate immune cells inside the tumour, which are being supressed by the cancer, to attack the fibroblasts.”

Dr Kerry Fisher, from the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford, who led the research said: “Even when most of the cancer cells in a carcinoma are killed, fibroblasts can protect the residual cancer cells and help them to recover and flourish. Until now, there has not been any way to kill both cancer cells and the fibroblasts protecting them at the same time, without harming the rest of the body.

“Our new technique to simultaneously target the fibroblasts while killing cancer cells with the virus could be an important step towards reducing immune system suppression within carcinomas and should kick-start the normal immune process.

“These viruses are already undergoing trials in people, so we hope our modified virus will be moving towards clinical trials as early as next year to find out if it is safe and effective in people with cancer.”

The scientists successfully tested the therapy on fresh human cancer samples collected from consenting patients, including solid prostate cancer tumours which reflect the complex make-up of real tumours. They also tested the virus on samples of healthy human bone marrow and found it did not cause toxicity or inappropriate T cell activation.

Dr Nathan Richardson, head of molecular and cellular medicine at the MRC said: “Immunotherapy is emerging as an exciting new approach to treating cancers. This innovative viral delivery system, which targets both the cancer and surrounding protective tissue, could improve outcomes for patients whose cancers are resistant to current treatments. Further clinical studies will be crucial to determine that the stimulation of the patient’s immune system does not produce unintended consequences”.

Dr Michelle Lockley, Cancer Research UK’s expert on immunotherapy, said: “Using the power of the body’s own immune system to tackle cancer is a growing area of research. This work in human tumour samples is encouraging, but can be complicated – one of the biggest challenges of immunotherapies is predicting how well they will work with the patient’s immune system, and understanding what the side effects could be. The next stage will be using clinical trials to test whether this is both a safe and effective way to treat the disease in people.”

The virus targets carcinomas, which are the most common type of cancer and start in cells in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs, such as the pancreas, colon, lungs, breasts, ovaries and prostate.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund and the Oxford NIHR Biomedical Research Centre. Materials were provided by PsiOxus Therapeutics Ltd.




Content adapted from the MRC website.

Transatlantic collaboration to support earlier detection of pancreatic and oesophageal cancer

Oxford researcher Chunxiao Song, who is a group leader and chemist at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, recently gave an interview to CRUK speaking about his work recently funded by the CRUK-OHSU Project Award. The Award is jointly funded by CRUK and Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU).

In collaboration with Dr Thuy Ngo (OHSU) Chunxiao is developing novel tools to analyse liquid biopsies for pancreatic and oesophageal cancer. The aim is to use epigenetic and transcriptome technology to detect cancer earlier and provide information on where the cancer originated from. The researchers plan to use machine learning to create classification models that distinguish cancer patients from healthy controls.

The collaborating researchers believe that a combination of those two technologies will generate a fuller picture than a focus on just one technology. Chunxiao explains: “Our project uses liquid biopsies – a test that looks for DNA and RNA shed by tumours (and in fact all cells) in a patient’s blood sample. I have developed new measuring technologies that use less harsh chemicals than the standard approach. This causes less DNA degradation, which makes it easier to measure small quantities of cell -free DNA. Thuy has focused her research on measuring cell-free RNA. This is even more difficult than measuring cell-free DNA – but she has developed a special protocol that’s really gentle and doesn’t cause degradation of the RNA.”

Chunxiao also speaks about his experiences with applying for CRUK funded grants. He emphasises how uncomplicated the process is, and how well CRUK supports applicants: “My advice to anyone thinking of putting in an application is to contact the CRUK funding managers early on because they can help guide you through the process from the beginning.”

The full interview can be found via this link.



(Content adapted from