Centre co-Director Prof Xin Lu honoured by the Royal Society

The Royal Society, the UK’s distinguished academy of science, has announced the election of 62 new Fellows and Foreign Members, which include Professor Xin Lu FMedSci FRS. Xin is the current co-director of the CRUK Oxford Centre and Director of the Oxford branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. It has been Xin’s distinguished career as a cancer biologist and her contributions to the understanding of cellular pathways that control cell fate in development and disease, particularly cancer, has earnt her this accolade.

She has a long-standing interest in how to selectively kill cancer cells, and her major research advances have provided insights into how p53, the most mutated or inactivated tumour suppressor in human cancers, can make life or death decisions for a cell. Xin’s early work showed how p53 responds to activation of cancer-causing genes and DNA damage. She has since discovered the ASPP family of proteins as molecular switches that control p53-mediated cell killing. Find out more about Xin’s research here.

Xin’s impact on the cancer landscape in Oxford

Of equal importance is the impact that Xin has had on the cancer research community here at Oxford. Her ability and desire to bring researchers together across traditional thematic boundaries was one of the many reasons she was appointed to the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre Management Group in 2016 and as co-Director in 2018. During this time, her ability to identify new opportunities for collaboration and galvanise research teams from multiple corners of both the University and Hospital, has impacted both Oxford’s Oesophageal Cancer and Early Cancer Detection communities.

“It’s fantastic that Xin’s academic work has been recognised in this way” said Professor Mark Middleton, co-Director of the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre.

“We are fortunate in Oxford to have a scientist of Xin’s calibre who is so committed to making sure that our world class science improves patient care. Many of the achievements of the Oxford Centre in recent years would not have been possible without her drive and leadership. Her ability to engage and energise research teams has had a profound impact on the cancer research community at the University and Trust, that will be felt for years to come.”

The fruits of these efforts are numerous and include Oxford being selected to host the inaugural CRUK International Symposium on Oesophageal Cancer; engaging with local clinicians to drive the opening of numerous innovative clinical and experimental medicine studies in upper GI cancers (including LUD2015-005 to test novel combinations of radiation-, chemo- and immune- therapy in this setting), the launch of the Oxford Centre for Early Cancer Detection and the external funding of numerous Oxford-ed project and programme awards in these fields.

“I am humbled to receive this honour from the Royal Society” said Professor Lu.

“As someone who barely spoke English at the beginning of my scientific career, I am hugely grateful for all the support I have received from my supervisors and mentors. My appreciation also goes to the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research for its long-term research funding and to the Department, College and University for a supportive and creative environment. Most important of all, my deep gratitude goes to the fantastic scientists in my laboratory, and colleagues I’ve had the privilege to work with throughout my career to date, without whom this recognition would not have been possible.”

About the Fellowship

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship dating back to the 1660s that is dedicated to promoting excellence in science for the benefit of humanity. The Fellowship comprises the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth. Former members include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking. This year, 51 Fellows, 10 Foreign Members and one Honorary Fellow have been elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of scientific excellence. There are approximately 1,700 Fellows and Foreign Members in total, including around 70 Nobel Laureates. These include Ludwig Oxford’s Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe, a co-recipient of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said

“At this time of global crisis, the importance of scientific thinking, and the medicines, technologies and insights it delivers, has never been clearer. Our Fellows and Foreign Members are central to the mission of the Royal Society, to use science for the benefit of humanity. While election to the Fellowship is a recognition of exceptional individual contributions to the sciences, it is also a network of expertise that can be drawn on to address issues of societal, and global significance.

“This year’s Fellows and Foreign Members have helped shape the 21st century through their work at the cutting-edge of fields from human genomics, to climate science and machine learning. It gives me great pleasure to celebrate these achievements, and those yet to come, and welcome them into the ranks of the Royal Society.”

Six academics from Oxford have been honoured in this year’s round of Royal Society Fellowship elections. Find out more on the Royal Society website.

NDORMS win cancer research awards


Nuffield Department of Orthopadics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) supports multi-disciplinary research into the causes of musculoskeletal and inflammatory conditions, in order to improve people’s quality of life. Based within the Medical Science Division of Oxford University, NDORMS collaborates with many leading research units, particularly in the field of cancer research, to develop new and innovative ways to tackle cancer and its treatment.

Three awards have been given to NDORMS researchers for their work on cancer and its treatment. The awards include grant funding to further their work, which you can find out more about below.

Meet the winners

Audrey Gerard has been awarded the CRUK Immunology Project Award, for her research into mechanisms that inhibit anti-tumour immunity. So far, her research has had great success in the application of treating aggressive cancers, but stimulating the body’s own immune system to remove cancer cells.

This award hopes to further her research, hand help to determine if there are other aspects restricting tumour immunity that can be exploited.

Anjal Kusumble, Richard Williams and Felix Clanchy have been awarded the CRUK Early Detection Primer Award for their work on Ewing’s Sarcoma – a highly malignant tumour of the bone or surrounding tissue. This cancer is particularly hard to treat due to the difficulty of identifying and diagnosing it.

The team’s work into improving early detection of Ewing’s Sarcoma and its spread through the body has shown great promise in identifying potential relapses. The award will provide the funding needed to consolidate previous work and find new solutions to tackle the disease.

Alex Clark has been awarded the Cancer Immunology grant to support his exploration of how metabolic processes in B cells promote autoimmunity and lymphoma. The aim of this project is to find a way to interfere with the important pathways needed for cells to create amino acids – the building blocks for cell and cancer cell growth.

This work may pave the way for new treatment approaches which can be applied to diseases such as lymphoma.