Dr Francis Mussai MA(Oxon) BM BCh DPhil MRCPCH


Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Oncology
Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Oncology
Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist Fellow

School of Cancer Sciences


Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


Francis Mussai is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Paediatric Oncology in the School of Cancer Sciences and an Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Oncology at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

His research is focused on understanding the interaction between paediatric cancers and the immune system, in particular how cancers suppress the immune response to avoid destruction. Projects involving solid tumours and haematological malignancies are currently underway.

In addition Francis aims to develop novel therapies for paediatric cancers, from pre-clinical studies through to early phase clinical trials.


  • DPhil in Clinical Medicine, Magdalen College, University of Oxford, 2012
  • Membership of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2007
  • Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (USMLE), USA, 2007
  • BM BCh, Christ Church College, University of Oxford
  • MA (Oxon) in Physiological Sciences, St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford


Francis read Medicine at the University of Oxford graduating in 2004. He developed an interest in Paediatric Oncology through early clinical experience with the late Dr John Pritchard. Francis went on to complete his General Paediatrics training at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford under the stewardship of Dr Chris Mitchell.

In 2007, Francis was accepted onto the Johns Hopkins-National Institutes of Health Joint Fellowship Program in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (USA) and underwent sub-speciality training. Whilst at the NIH, he begun doctoral studies, through a Wellcome Trust-NIH Studentship. Under the mentorship of Dr Ira Pastan and Dr Alan Wayne, Francis investigated the cytotoxicity of a novel anti-CD22 immunotoxin against paediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

In 2010, Francis returned to the University of Oxford to complete his doctoral studies in Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo’s laboratory. He investigated the mechanisms in which Acute Myeloid Leukaemia blasts create an immunosuppressive niche and suppress haematopoiesis.

In 2012, Francis moved to Birmingham to lead a research group investigating the immunosuppressive microenvironment created by paediatric malignancies.

Clinically, Francis is an honorary Paediatric Oncology Consultant at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. He continues to work on the development of early phase clinical trials for paediatric cancers, and is involved in teaching within the hospital and University.


  • MBChB Year 5 Paediatric Course
  • MSc Clinical Oncology: Pathology of Cancer and Paediatric Oncology modules

Postgraduate supervision

Francis is interested in supervising doctoral research students who are interested in the immunology of paediatric cancers or investigating the activity of novel targeted therapies.


Francis’ research group is centred on understanding how paediatric solid tumours and haematological malignancies interact with the immune system and suppress the immune response.


Neuroblastoma is the most common extra-cranial solid malignancy of childhood. Although the prognosis for low stage neuroblastoma has improved, patients with Stage IV neuroblastoma have an extremely poor survival despite treatment with high chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and immunotherapy.

Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a population of immature myeloid cells found in increased numbers in adults with solid tumours and they inactivate a patient’s anti-tumour immune response. The project aims to understand the role of MDSCs in the immunobiology of neuroblastoma and target their activity, to restore anti-cancer immunity. The project is being carried out in collaboration with Professor John Anderson at Great Ormond Street Hospital, Professor  Louis Chesler at the Institute for Cancer Research, and Dr Kate Wheeler at the Children’s Hospital, Oxford.

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is the most frequent leukaemia in adults and the second most common leukaemia of childhood. Despite intensification of chemotherapy treatment, a significant number of patients will relapse and succumb to their disease. The mechanisms in which AML blasts create an immunosuppressive niche and halt normal haematopoiesis are currently under study in the Mussai group. Development of prognostic biomarkers and identification of therapies to overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment in AML are the subject of ongoing research. The study is being carried out in collaboration with Dr Pam Kearns and Dr Vicki Weston.

The research has been generously funded by the Amber Phillpott Trust Birmingham Children's Hospital Research Fund, Children with Cancer and Cancer Research UK.

Press Coverage:

TV: 6 minutes 20 seconds onwards

Other activities

  • Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Oncology at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital


  • Mussai FJ, De Santo C, Abu-Dayyeh I, Booth S, Quek L, McEwen-Smith R Qureshi A, Dazzi F, Vyas P, Cerundolo V. 2013. Acute myeloid leukaemia creates an arginase-dependent immunosuppressive microenvironment. Blood; 122(5):749-58
    Commentary: Marcucci G Blood 2013 122:620-621 and Haznedaroglu Blood (August 26 2013)
  • Mussai F,De Santo C, Cerundolo V. (2012), Interaction between invariant NKT cells and Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells in cancer patients: evidence and therapeutic opportunities. Journal of Immunotherapy, 35: 449-59
  • Fitzgerald DJ, Moskatel E, Ben-Josef G, Traini R, Tendler T, Sharma A, Antignani A, Mussai F, Wayne A, Kreitman RJ, Pastan I. (2011), Enhancing immunotoxin cell-killing activity via combination therapy with ABT-737. Leukemia & Lymphoma, 52: 79-81
  • El-Mallawany NK, Geller L, Bollard CM, Wistinghausen B, Mussai F, Wayne AS, Alobeid B, Cairo MS. (2011) Long-term remission in a child with refractory EBV+ hydro vacciniforme-like T-cell lymphoma through sequential EBV+ related allogenic hematopoietic SCT followed by donor-derived EBV-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocyte immunotherapy. Bone Marrow Transplantation, 46: 759-761
  • Mussai F, Campana D, Bhojwani D, Stetler-Stevenson M, Steinberg SM,  Wayne AS, Pastan I. (2010) Cytotoxicity of the anti-CD22 immunotoxin HA22 (CAT-8015) against paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. British Journal of Haematology, 150: 352-358
  • Mussai F, Cunningham LC, Rezvani G, Stratakis CA, Reynolds JC, Nesterova G, Henshaw RM, Levine JE, Helman L, Arthur DC, Kim SY. (2008) Hypocalcaemia in a patient with osteosarcoma and 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology, 30: 612-617
  • Mitchell C, Mussai FJ. (2008) Wilms’ Tumour, In: J Barratt, K Harris, P Topham (eds.) Oxford Desktop Reference Nephrology, OUP Oxford, 672-675

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