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Student project:
Understanding the effects of immunomodulatory therapies on radiation response

Dying cancer cells are thought to be a rich source of tumour antigens and danger signals into the tumour microenvironment. Work from the Olcina lab has found that targeting complement can increase tumour cell death following radiotherapy which may in turn modulate anti-tumour immune responses. However, how to productively harness these responses to maximise productive inflammation while limiting normal tissue toxicity is still unclear. To uncover these mechanisms, we will explore modes of cell death following complement inhibition.

Our group works in a collaborative and multidisciplinary manner. We are interested in a basic to translational approach to science, so we collaborate with clinicians and use patient samples or clinical data whenever possible. We also have experience working with in a range of model systems ranging from cell lines to in vivo mouse models. Students can also expect to receive training in bioinformatics and cell and molecular biology techniques.

Monica Olcina

Group Leader - Immune Radiation Biology

  • Associate Research Fellow - St Hilda’s College
  • Course Director for the MSc in Radiation Biology

Understanding how tumours exploit our first line of immune defence to their advantage


Monica Olcina studied Pharmacy at the University of Manchester. After completing the required training to become a registered pharmacist she moved to Oxford to undertake her Masters and DPhil studies in Radiation Biology. In 2014, she joined Stanford University where she worked as a Cancer Research Institute Irvington Postdoctoral Fellow to identify novel pathways that could be targeted to improve radiotherapy. In 2019 she moved to the University of Zurich to continue these studies. In December 2020 she joined the Department as a Junior Group Leader.


My group works to understanding how tumours thrive in the tumour microenvironment and aim to identify druggable tumour-specific vulnerabilities that can improve tumour response and reduce treatment-induced toxicity.

Specific projects currently being undertaken in the lab include:

1. Investigating mechanisms underlying normal tissue recovery following treatment-induced injury

- This work includes identifying key players in restoring homeostasis following injury.

2. Understanding the causes and consequences of complement system dysregulation in the tumour microenvironment

- We work to understand how and why this dysregulation occurs, including the impact of hypoxia on regulating complement protein expression and function within the tumour microenvironment. We are also interested in the effects of complement inhibition on cell death and immune cell recruitment and function in the tumour microenvironment.

3. Understanding and targeting glioma-immune cell interactions in paediatric high-grade glioma (pHGG) to improve immune- and radiotherapy responses

- This work is being undertaken as part of the EU-HORIZON HIT-GLIO consortium (more information here), where the Olcina and Hammond groups are leading efforts to understand mechanisms of radiotherapy resistance that may be therapeutically targeted in pHGG.

Group Members

Callum Beach -  DPhil (joint student with Prof Tim Maughan and Prof Simon Leedham)

Dominika Majorova - Research Assistant

Kelly Lee - MRes Student (joint student with Prof Hammond)

Dr Tatsuya Suwa - Sponsored Researcher - Takeda Medical Foundation, British Council Japan Association Scholarship Scheme

Qingyang Zhang - DPhil Student

Heather Clark - MRes Student

Ian Chai - Research Assistant


Prof. Bozena Kaminska, Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology, Nencki, Poland

Prof. Chris Jones, The Institute of Cancer Research, London

Dr Silvia Guglietta, Medical University of South Carolina

Prof. Trent Woodruff, School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland

Prof. Adel Samson and Dr Robert Samuel, St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds

Prof. David Bannerman, Head of Behavioural Neuroscience Unit, Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford

Prof. Simon Buczacki, Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences, University of Oxford

Dr. Jelena Bezbradica Mirkovic, Associate Professor in Immunology, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, University of Oxford


David MacLean (2021-2023), Research Assistant – PhD student, Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute, Glasgow

Shivanki Sahay (Apr- Aug. 2022), MSc Student in Radiobiology – Scientific Officer, ICR

Hongyu Man (Apr- Aug. 2021), MSc Student in Radiobiology – PhD student, King’s College, London