Dr Claire Shannon-Lowe PhD

Claire Shannon-Lowe

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
Associate Professor in Virology

Contact details

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Claire Shannon-Lowe is a tumour virologist with over 20 years of experience in virology research. At the University of Birmingham, her research has focussed upon Epstein Barr virus, the first human virus shown to be associated with cancer. She has a long-term interest in a group of rare T cell and natural killer cell cancers driven by EBV. These diseases are aggressive and particularly difficult to treat. Dr Shannon-Lowe's team are particularly interested in understanding why they are so resistant to treatment and in identifying new effective treatments. She also has an interest in how EBV actually drives these diseases, both by manipulating the infected cells and how the infected cells then change the cellular microenvironment, including the activation and expansion of myeloid derived suppressor cells.

Dr Shannon-Lowe has also developed an interest in EBV-associated gastric carcinoma and employing new models, gastric organoids, to understand how EBV causes this cancer. Understanding how EBV causes gastric cancer has been difficult because of the lack of good experimental models. The development of gastric organoids has been a major improvement in modelling the disease and has great promise for identifying new effective drugs.

Claire currently leads the virology teaching in the MDS. She has a real passion for virology and how viruses can manipulate cells to adapt to life in the human host.


  • Associate Professor in Virology
  • PhD in Virology 2002, The Royal Free and University College Hospital
  • MSc in Medical Microbiology 1997, The University of Surrey
  • BSc Hons in Applied Biology 1993


Dr Shannon-Lowe initially trained as a clinical virologist at The Royal Free Hospital, London where she gained extensive training in a broad range of pathogenic viruses and research techniques. Following her PhD in Virology, she took up a postdoc position at the University of Birmingham to study the entry mechanisms of EBV into epithelial cells with Professors Alan Rickinson and Henri-Jacques Delecluse. During this time she realised very little was known about how EBV entered T cells and NK cells and how EBV drove the pathogenesis of the T/NK cell lymphoproliferative diseases.

Dr Shannon-Lowe was awarded an MRC New Investigator award and established her own research group examining how EBV contributes the pathogenesis of T/NK cell LPDs and malignancies. Importantly, her group has established a diagnostic method to identify patients with Chronic active EBV, EBV-associated haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and aggressive NK leukaemia. Her research group has since established gastric organoids to study how EBV contributes to gastric carcinoma.


Postgraduate supervision

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Dr Claire Shannon-Lowe directly, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email mds-gradschool@contacts.bham.ac.uk.

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.


Research interests

Epstein Barr virus associated T cell and natural killer cell lymphoproliferative diseases. Dr Shannon-Lowe is an expert in EBV infections of T cells and NK cells, where infection usually results in a range of diseases including chronic active EBV (CAEBV) and haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), through to the highly aggressive malignancies including extranodal NK/T cell lymphoma (ENKTL) and aggressive NK leukaemia (ANKL).

Myeloid derived suppressor cells.

Dr Shannon-Lowe’s team have shown that EBV-infected T cells and NK cells are not eradicated from patients despite the presence of EBV-specific cytotoxic T cells due to the large expansions of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) in the patient blood. These MDSC inhibit the growth and function of CTLs, enabling the survival and transformation of EBV-infected T/NK cells. Furthermore, the EBV-infected cells are resistant to the current chemotherapy regimens. Dr Shannon-Lowe’s team is therefore investigating how the infected cells drive the expansion of the MDSCs and novel treatments for CAEBV and HLH.

Resistance to chemotherapy.

In collaboration with Dr Gemma Kelly at the WEHI in Melbourne, Australia, the Shannon-Lowe team has shown CAEBV and the EBV-associated T/NK cell malignancies are highly resistant to conventional chemotherapies. Using the novel BH3 mimetics, the teams showed the infected cells are reliant on the anti-apoptotic protein, BCL-XL, for their survival. They are currently investigating how BCL-XL can be used synergistically with other drugs to treat these highly aggressive diseases.    

Identification of novel effective drug combinations.

The EBV-associated T/NK LPDs have proven to be resistant to many types of drugs, not just the DNA damaging agents. Therefore, to identify effective drugs or combinations of drugs, we are using alternative identification strategies.

EBV-associated gastric carcinoma.

The Shannon-Lowe group has had a long-term interest in EBV infection of epithelial cells. We have now established gastric organoids to help answer how EBV contributes to the pathogenesis of gastric carcinoma.

Other activities

  • Editor, Microbiology Spectrum, ASM Virology
  • External Course Examiner, University of Sheffield, MRes in Clinical Oncology
  • Virology Division Member, Microbiology Society
  • International EBV Association Committee Member


Recent publications


Tarlinton, R, Tanasescu, R, Shannon-Lowe, C & Gran, B 2024, 'Ocrelizumab B cell depletion has no effect on HERV RNA expression in PBMC in MS patients', Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, vol. 86, 105597. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.msard.2024.105597

Maple, PA, Ascherio, A, Cohen, JI, Cutter, G, Giovannoni, G, Shannon-Lowe, C, Tanasescu, R & Gran, B 2022, 'The Potential for EBV Vaccines to Prevent Multiple Sclerosis', Frontiers in neurology, vol. 13, 887794. https://doi.org/10.3389/fneur.2022.887794

Collins, P, Fox, CP, George, LC, Pearce, H, Ryan, GB, De Santo, C, Mussai, FJ, Lewis, D, Long, HM & Shannon-Lowe, CD 2021, 'Characterising EBV-associated lymphoproliferative diseases and the role of myeloid-derived suppressor cells', Blood, vol. 137, no. 2, pp. 203–215. https://doi.org/10.1182/blood.2020005611

Wallaschek, N, Reuter, S, Silkenat, S, Wolf, K, Niklas, C, Kayisoglu, Ö, Aguilar, C, Wiegering, A, Germer, C-T, Kircher, S, Rosenwald, A, Shannon-Lowe, C & Bartfeld, S 2021, 'Ephrin receptor A2, the epithelial receptor for Epstein-Barr virus entry, is not available for efficient infection in human gastric organoids', PLoS Pathogens, vol. 17, no. 2, e1009210. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1009210

Olbei, M, Hautefort, I, Modos, D, Treveil, A, Poletti, M, Gul, L, Shannon-Lowe, CD & Korcsmaros, T 2021, 'SARS-CoV-2 Causes a Different Cytokine Response Compared to Other Cytokine Storm-Causing Respiratory Viruses in Severely Ill Patients', Frontiers in immunology, vol. 12, 629193. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2021.629193

Fletcher, NF, Meredith, LW, Tidswell, EL, Bryden, SR, Gonçalves-Carneiro, D, Chaudhry, Y, Shannon-Lowe, C, Folan, MA, Lefteri, DA, Pingen, M, Bailey, D, McKimmie, CS & Baird, AW 2020, 'A novel antiviral formulation inhibits a range of enveloped viruses', Journal of General Virology, vol. 101, no. 10, pp. 1090-1102. https://doi.org/10.1099/jgv.0.001472

Sejic, N, George, L, Tierney, R, Chang, C, Kondrashova, O, MacKinnon, RN, Lan, P, Bell, A, Lessene, G, Long, H, Strasser, A, Shannon-Lowe, C & Kelly, GL 2020, 'BCL-XL inhibition by BH3-mimetic drugs induces apoptosis in models of Epstein-Barr virus-associated T/NK cell lymphoma', Blood Advances, vol. 4, no. 19, pp. 4775-4787. https://doi.org/10.1182/bloodadvances.2020002446

Fitzsimmons, L, Cartlidge, R, Chang, C, Sejic, N, Galbraith, LCA, Suraweera, CD, Croom-Carter, D, Dewson, G, Tierney, R, Bell, A, Shannon-Lowe, C, Herold, M, Rickinson, A, Colman, PM, Huang, DCS, Strasser, A, Kvansakul, M, Rowe, M & Kelly, GL 2019, 'EBV BCL-2 homologue BHRF1 drives chemoresistance and lymphomagenesis by inhibiting multiple cellular pro-apoptotic proteins', Cell Death & Differentiation , vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 1554-1568. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41418-019-0435-1

Fultang, L, Panetti, S, Ng, M, Collins, P, Graef, S, Rizkalla, N, Booth, S, Richard, L, Noyvert, B, Shannon-Lowe, C, Middleton, G, Mussai, F & De Santo, C 2019, 'MDSC targeting with Gemtuzumab ozogamicin restores T cell immunity and immunotherapy against cancers', EBioMedicine, vol. 47, pp. 235-246. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.08.025

Brocard, M, Khasnis, S, Wood, CD, Shannon-Lowe, C & West, MJ 2018, 'Pumilio directs deadenylation-associated translational repression of the cyclin-dependent kinase 1 activator RGC-32', Nucleic Acids Research, vol. 46, no. 7, pp. 3707-3725. https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gky038

Shannon-Lowe, C, Rickinson, A & Bell, A 2017, 'Epstein-Barr virus-associated lymphomas', Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B, vol. 372, no. 1732, 20160271. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2016.0271

Pekalski, ML, García, AR, Ferreira, RC, Rainbow, DB, Smyth, DJ, Mashar, M, Brady, J, Savinykh, N, Dopico, XC, Mahmood, S, Duley, S, Stevens, HE, Walker, NM, Cutler, AJ, Waldron-Lynch, F, Dunger, DB, Shannon-Lowe, C, Coles, AJ, Jones, JL, Wallace, C, Todd, JA & Wicker, LS 2017, 'Neonatal and adult recent thymic emigrants produce IL-8 and express complement receptors CR1 and CR2', JCI Insight, vol. 2, no. 16. https://doi.org/10.1172/jci.insight.93739

Review article

Glover, A, Zhang, Z & Shannon-Lowe, C 2023, 'Deciphering the roles of myeloid derived suppressor cells in viral oncogenesis', Frontiers in immunology, vol. 14, 1161848. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2023.1161848

Glover, A & Shannon-Lowe, C 2021, 'From pathobiology to targeted treatment in Epstein Barr virus related T cell and Natural Killer cell lymphoproliferative diseases', Annals of Lymphoma, vol. 5, pp. 5-31. https://doi.org/10.21037/aol-21-33

Shannon-Lowe, C & Rickinson, A 2019, 'The Global Landscape of EBV-Associated Tumors', Frontiers in Oncology, vol. 9, pp. 713. https://doi.org/10.3389/fonc.2019.00713

View all publications in research portal


Virology; tumour virology