- Professor of Virology and Molecular Oncology (Centre for Virus Research)
- Associate Academic (School of Veterinary Medicine)
- Associate Academic (Institute of Cancer Sciences)
My research group's work stems from a long-standing interest in retroviruses, particularly as agents of cancer (Cancer Cell 2002, 2: 253-5). This work has led to the identification of cellular oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes that are also important in cancers of non-viral etiology. A major focus of our CR-UK/LLR funded programme is the Runx genes, a three-membered family of transcription factors that can be activated by retroviruses in mouse lymphomas but play wider roles as targets for chromosomal translocations in human leukaemia. Paradoxically, the Runx family is also implicated in tumour suppression as shown by loss of function mutations in some human leukaemias (Nature Reviews on Cancer 2005, 5: 376-87). The Runx genes play multiple roles in cell fate determination in normal development and our findings show that they influence key events relevant to cancer including the regulation of apoptosis and senescence (Cancer Research 2006, 66: 2195-201; 2007 11263-71, Oncogene 2009, 28:2502-12). Moreover, we have recently discovered a novel link between the Runx genes and sphingolipid metabolism that appears to be important for their oncogenic effects (Cancer Res 2010, 70, 5860-9) and we are currently exploring these aspects of Runx function in cancer cell survival and maintenance. In parallel, we are continuing to develop insertional mutagenesis as a cancer gene discovery tool (Cancer Res 2007, 67:5126-33) and we are using the power of next generation sequencing to adapt this approach to retroviral mutagenesis of the human genome. This work has also highlighted the intrinsic resistance mechanisms that limit cross-species transfer of retroviruses.