About the Institute

In the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, we integrate the major academic strengths of fundamental biomedical research with clinical trials of new therapies and surgical protocols. We use the power of genomics to understand the molecular basis of cancer and other diseases so that we can use this knowledge in the development of new clinical trials.

Piles of petri dishes in a lab

Our cancer research programme provides a better understanding of the genetic abnormalities that underlie the development of cancer. By using high throughput methods to study the whole genome, we are discovering how complex regulatory networks become the targets of cancer genes. Parallel studies of basic molecular mechanisms that control normal cells help us to define the specific pathways that become deregulated in cancer.

Our research programmes in the discovery science arena are wide-ranging and cover cancer cell and stem cell biology, viral oncology (EBV and HPV) and genome biology. These combined approaches allow us to determine how genetic abnormalities lead to cancer and help us to identify molecular pathways that can be used as new targets for novel therapies. To support our research, we are developing new strengths in genomics and bioinformatics through our strong academic link with the Centre for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics.

Our surgical units work closely with our clinical trials unit to develop better surgical protocols which had led to improved patient outcomes.

We are in an internationally unique position within this area of medical science as we bring together a range of world-class basic and clinical scientists and geneticists who investigate the genetic bases of cancer and combine this with clinical trials of new therapies. The combination of sustained funding from government and charities, patient involvement and technological advances has given us the opportunity to investigate the consequences of genomic changes in cancer. This is providing a wealth of information that can be used to design the next generation of cancer treatments.

Through our research, we have found new ways that the BRCA1 gene functions to protect cells from DNA damage, identified critical pathways to target in leukaemia, how to produce an anti-cancer compound from the feverfew plant and the first step in personalised head and neck cancer treatment. We have a supportive and collaborative working environment, where innovation thrives. We pioneer research that is the first of its kind in the UK – for example our bowel cancer scientists are growing avatar models of patients’ tumours to develop new treatments. Find out more about our latest research.

We are the lead for national trials including the Tessa Jowell BRAIN MATRIX, revolutionising the diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer. Our cancer clinical trials are driven through the Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit, which provides a translational pipeline for the development and assessment of new cancer therapies. We are also home to the national Children’s Cancer Trials Team, putting Birmingham at the forefront for paediatric oncology research. A key driver for our future development is the West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre, the largest in the UK and linking all 18 regional NHS Trusts, with academic leadership based within this Institute. This centre will contribute to the 100,000 Genomes Project to collect and decode human genomes from cancer patients.

Athena Swan Bronze Award logo