Translational Biology and Genetics

Molecular oncology cellsWe are investigating the mechanisms by which cancer mutations deregulate the normal processes of cellular function and growth. We use genome-wide profiling to screen different classes of cancer, such as colorectal cancer, for potential mutations and biomarkers. We study how cancer evolves, and are developing better molecular and cellular cancer models for designing and testing new therapies.

For example, Professor Andrew Beggs’ research is looking at devising organoid models to offer personalised medicine treatments for colorectal cancer patients, and Dr Richard Bryan is developing a 23-gene panel for a non-invasive diagnosis for bladder cancer.

Theme Co-Leads

Professor Andrew Beggs

Professor Andrew Beggs

Professor in Surgery & Cancer Genetics

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Dr Mathew Coleman

Dr Mathew Coleman

Reader in Tumour Cell Biology

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Research Groups

Cancer Genetics
Researcher Interest
Professor Andrew Beggs Cancer Genetics & Biology
Dr Gareth Bond The roles of genetic variants in cancer
Dr Richard Bryan Bladder cancer biology and treatment
Professor Michael Griffiths Cancer genetics and mutation screening
Dr Claire Palles Gastrointestinal cancer genetics and epigenetics

Paediatric genetics and rare diseases

Researcher Interest
Professor Timothy Barrett Paediatric genetics in diabetes
Cancer Biology and Pathology
Researcher Interest
Dr Chiara Bardella Molecular mechanisms underlying glioma development
Dr Fedor Berditchevski Breast cancer tissue microenvironment
Dr Mathew Coleman Protein hydroxylation in cancer
Dr Lennard Lee Molecular basis of cancer metastasis
Dr Elena Odintsova Breast cancer tissue microenvironment
Professor Andrew Peet Imaging in paediatric oncology
Dr Sovan Sarkar Autophagy in health and disease
Professor Chris Tselepis Colorectal cancer cell biology
Dr Richard Tuxworth Lysosomal storage diseases

Spotlight on the regulation of carcinogenesis in colorectal cancer

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118 (2021) e2011411118. Andrijes R, RK Hejmadi, M Pugh, S Rajesh, V Novitskaya, M Ibrahim, ….. A Beggs,  F Berditchevski. Tetraspanin 6 is a regulator of carcinogenesis in colorectal cancer. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2011411118 


Bowel cancer patients expressing high levels of the membrane-bound protein TPSPAN6 are more likely to respond to treatment with Cetuximab, a monoclonal antibody inhibitor of the EGF receptor. Previously it has been difficult to identify bowel cancer patients likely to benefit from Cetuximab because only some of these patients respond to therapy, partly due to the fact a subset of these patients have KRAS mutations, and these patients may not even be eligible for Cetuximab. This study in PNAS from the groups of Fedor Berditchevski and Andrew Beggs reveals that TSPAN6 is a tumour suppressor that blocks the autocrine expression of membrane bound TGFa on vesicles that activate EGFR signalling. High levels of TSPAN6 expression are associated with enhanced sensitivity to Cetuximab, regardless of the KRAS mutation status. These finding may pave the way for personalised therapy in bowel cancer whereby TSPAN6 can be used as a biomarker to target patients most likely to benefit from Cetuximab, including those with KRAS mutations.  

Spotlight on COVID-19 and Cancer Patients

Cancer Cell 38:306-307 (2020). Lee LYW, T Hill, O Topping, M Tilby, M Baker, J Greig, . . . UKBCCC- Project. Utility of COVID-19 Screening in Cancer Patients.

Testing samples in a laboratory.


Cancer patients are at increased risk from COVID-19. In this study led by Lennard Lee COVID-19 tests were performed in 1,226 patients as part of the UK Birmingham Chemotherapy Cancer COVID-19 cohort. Uptake of screening was 98.2%, with an asymptomatic infection prevalence of 0.6%. This study concluded that where the incidence of asymptomatic infection is low and patients can be identified early, screening gives clinicians the confidence to safely deliver effective cancer care in the era of COVID-19.


Selected Highlights from this Research Theme


PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) 118 (39) (2021)  Regina Andrijes, Rahul K. Hejmadi, Matthew Pugh, Sundaresan Rajesh, Vera Novitskaya, Maha Ibrahim, Michael Overduin, Chris Tselepis, Gary W. Middleton, Balázs Győrffy,  Andrew D. Beggs, and Fedor Berditchevski Tetraspanin 6 is a regulator of carcinogenesis in colorectal cancer.

Cancers (Basel) 13 (2021). Palles C, S Fotheringham, L Chegwidden, M Lucas, R Kerr, G Mozolowski, . . . D Kerr. An Evaluation of the Diagnostic Accuracy of a Panel of Variants in DPYD and a Single Variant in ENOSF1 for Predicting Common Capecitabine Related Toxicities.

Cancer Research  (2021). Zhang P, I Kitchen-Smith, L Xiong, G Stracquadanio, K Brown, PH Richter, . . . GL Bond. Germline and somatic genetic variants in the p53 pathway interact to affect cancer risk, progression, and drug response.

J Medical Genetics  (2020). Di Giovannantonio M, BH Harris, P Zhang, I Kitchen-Smith, L Xiong, N Sahgal, . . . GL Bond. Heritable genetic variants in key cancer genes link cancer risk with anthropometric traits.

British J Cancer 122:1231-1241 (2020). Surakhy M, M Wallace, E Bond, LF Grochola, H Perez, M Di Giovannantonio, . . . GL Bond. A common polymorphism in the retinoic acid pathway modifies adrenocortical carcinoma age-dependent incidence.

Cancers (Basel) 12 (2020). Wanigasooriya K, R Tyler, JD Barros-Silva, Y Sinha, T Ismail and AD Beggs. Radiosensitising Cancer Using Phosphatidylinositol-3-Kinase (PI3K), Protein Kinase B (AKT) or Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) Inhibitors.

Lancet 395:1268-1277 (2020). Birtle A, M Johnson, J Chester, R Jones, D Dolling, RT Bryan, . . . E Hall. Adjuvant chemotherapy in upper tract urothelial carcinoma (the POUT trial): a phase 3, open-label, randomised controlled trial.

Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol)  (2020). Best J, T Starkey, A Chatterjee, D Fackrell, L Pettit, N Srihari, . . . JB Cazier, LYW Lee. Coronavirus Disease 2019: the Pivotal Role of UK Clinical Oncology and the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project.

J Clin Virol 128:104469 (2020). Bosworth A, C Whalley, C Poxon, K Wanigasooriya, O Pickles, EL Aldera, . . . AD Beggs. Rapid implementation and validation of a cold-chain free SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing workflow to support surge capacity.

Autophagy 16:195-202 (2020). Dong Y, Y Hu, S Sarkar, WX Zong, M Li, D Feng, . . . JH Lu. Autophagy modulator scoring system: a user-friendly tool for quantitative analysis of methodological integrity of chemical autophagy modulator studies.

Lancet Oncol 21:1309-1316 (2020). Lee LYW, JB Cazier, T Starkey, SEW Briggs, R Arnold, V Bisht, . . . UKCCMP Team. COVID-19 prevalence and mortality in patients with cancer and the effect of primary tumour subtype and patient demographics: a prospective cohort study.

J Mol Biol 432:2754-2798 (2020). Seranova E, AM Palhegyi, S Verma, S Dimova, R Lasry, M Naama, . . . S Sarkar. Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Models of Neurodegenerative Disorders for Studying the Biomedical Implications of Autophagy.

Cancer Cell 38:306-307 (2020). Lee LYW, T Hill, O Topping, M Tilby, M Baker, J Greig, . . . UKBCCC- Project. Utility of COVID-19 Screening in Cancer Patients.

Autophagy:1-20 (2020). Sharma V, M Makhdoomi, L Singh, P Kumar, N Khan, S Singh, . . . S Sarkar, D Kumar. Trehalose limits opportunistic mycobacterial survival during HIV co-infection by reversing HIV-mediated autophagy block.

J Mol Biol 432:2735-2753 (2020). Zatyka M, S Sarkar and T Barrett. Autophagy in Rare (NonLysosomal) Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Sci Rep 9:15592 (2019). Connolly KJ, MB O'Hare, A Mohammed, KM Aitchison, NC Anthoney, MJ Taylor, . . . RI Tuxworth, G Tear. The neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis protein Cln7 functions in the postsynaptic cell to regulate synapse development.

N Engl J Med 381:637-646 (2019). Tamborlane WV, M Barrientos-Perez, U Fainberg, H Frimer-Larsen, M Hafez, PM Hale, . . . T Barrett, Ellipse Trial. Liraglutide in Children and Adolescents with Type 2 Diabetes.

Cancer Cell 30:578-594 (2016). Bardella C, O Al-Dalahmah, D Krell, P Brazauskas, K Al-Qahtani, M Tomkova, . . . I Tomlinson. Expression of Idh1(R132H) in the Murine Subventricular Zone Stem Cell Niche Recapitulates Features of Early Gliomagenesis.

Mol Cell 53:645-654 (2014). Feng T, A Yamamoto, SE Wilkins, E Sokolova, LA Yates, M Munzel, . . . ML Coleman. Optimal translational termination requires C4 lysyl hydroxylation of eRF1.

Oncogene 32:5333-5337 (2013). Beggs AD, E Domingo, M Abulafi, SV Hodgson and IP Tomlinson. A study of genomic instability in early preneoplastic colonic lesions.

Nat Genet 45:136-144 (2013). Palles C, JB Cazier, KM Howarth, E Domingo, AM Jones, P Broderick, . . . I Tomlinson. Germline mutations affecting the proofreading domains of POLE and POLD1 predispose to colorectal adenomas and carcinomas.

Cell Rep 5:1302-1315 (2013). Sarkar S, B Carroll, Y Buganim, D Maetzel, AH Ng, JP Cassady, . . . R Jaenisch. Impaired autophagy in the lipid-storage disorder Niemann-Pick type C1 disease