Francis’ research group is centred on understanding how paediatric solid tumours and haematological malignancies interact with the immune system and suppress the immune response. The laboratory is co-supervised with Dr Carmela De Santo. Research studies are carried out in collaboration with a number of local, national and international research collaborators. Clinical trials based on this laboratory’s research are being established in partnership with pharmaceutical companies to try and improve patient outcomes.
Research projects investigating how adult cancers (such as colon, mesothelioma, renal, and melanoma) escape from the immune system are underway in the laboratory. New drugs which can re-activate the immune response against cancer are being tested, alongside national clinical trials. The research is co-supervised with Professor Gary Middleton.
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.
The research has been generously funded by the Amber Phillpott Trust Birmingham Children's Hospital Research Fund, Children with Cancer, the Stiliyan Petrov Foundation, Niayah’s Fund, Cancer Research UK and other local charities.
We welcome enquiries interested in finding our more about our work or how to contribute to our research funding.