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Head: Professor Mark Middleton

The Division of Cancer Medicine sits within the Department of Oncology. We want to understand cancer and the biological processes that govern how it starts, how it behaves and how the body responds to it. Our goal is to translate that understanding to the clinic, to benefit patients. Cancer Medicine sets out to achieve these aims in the 3 main areas:

  • Immunology – many cancers are linked to chronic inflammatory responses or infections, and tumours are often associated with ineffective immune responses. Drugs that activate the immune system have recently revolutionised the treatment of cancer, leading to a fundamental change in  the outlook for many patients, allowing them to achieve long-term control of their disease. We are working to further understand the interplay between the immune system and cancer both as it develops and under treatment. 
  • Genome Integrity & Epigenetics – DNA contains the essential genetic information for all living cells. Knowing how cells repair damaged DNA helps researchers to identify the aberrant processes that drive cancer development and growth. Understanding how changes to chromosomes affect which genes are expressed in a cell also helps us see how tumours behave, and to identify targets for treatment. 
  • Metabolism – the study of metabolism is crucial to understanding how cancers interact with the normal tissues in which they sit, called the tumour microenvironment, and how they are able to grow. Altering the microenvironment is an important step in making new and existing cancer treatments work better. We also want to exploit the differences in metabolism between tumours and normal tissue to detect cancer earlier.

The Division of Cancer Medicine is made up of over 200 researchers, students and professional & support staff, and collaborates with multiple sites and departments across the University and in Oxford’s hospitals.