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Prof John Anderson

Prof John Anderson

Professor of Experimental Paediatric Oncology

Developmental Biology & Cancer Dept

UCL GOS Institute of Child Health

Joined UCL
1st Apr 2002

Research summary

My research programme has been supported by grants from Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, SPARKS, Children with Leukaemia, Wellcome Trust and the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity. I am a specialist in tumour immunology and immunotherapy as applied to childhood cancers and run a translational research programme. In translational research, clinical observation is used to identify research priorities and opportunities, and the availability of patient populations allows the rapid introduction of innovative treatments in clinical trials. Observations from experimental medicine are also used to generate novel hypotheses to test in the laboratory. 

 In recent year my group has  focussed on the development of clinical trials of gene and cell therapy for high risk childhood cancers. These studies are highly complex in design and execution due to the regulatory requirements for manufacture in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). There have been four main elements.

Firstly, we have opened a trial of dendritic cell vaccination for children with high risk brain tumour (high grade glioma) funded largely by a £450,000 grant from Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity.

Secondly, we have been funded by Cancer Research UK New Agent Committee for both preclinical and clinical costs of a Gene and Cell therapy trial for neuroblastoma involving a novel chimeric antigen receptors. The trial was adopted onto the CRUK trials portfolio in 2012. 

Thirdly, we have recently strengthened the translational cancer research activity in ICH through new research grant income (£1,271,288 from LLR, CRUK, Wellcome, Children with Cancer UK and others). In 2012, we formalised this effort through the formation of the Translational Cancer Research Collaboration (TCRC) of senior academics and clinicians at ICH/GOSH. Initial funding for this translational research grouping has been secured from the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity (£672,533).

Education

University of London
, | 1998
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
, | 1991
University of Oxford
, | 1986

Biography

I was appointed as a Clinical Lecturer in paediatric oncology at UCL Institute of Child Health in 1998 after completing my PhD, which I had undertaken as a clinical research fellow at the Institute of Cancer Research (1995-1998). My initial 4 year appointment (1998-2002) at ICH was funded by a donation to ICH from the Great Ormond Street Hospital Special Trustees. In 2001 I was awarded a Cancer Research UK (then the Cancer Research Campaign) Clinician Scientist Fellowship (2002-2007). Since 2007, I held a HEFCE Senior Clinical Fellowship.

During my first 7 years at ICH I completed my clinical training in Paediatrics and Paediatric Oncology, whilst establishing my own laboratory-based research group. In 2005 I gained Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training in Paediatrics and Paediatric Oncology and was appointed as Honorary Consultant Oncologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

My research underwent a major shift in direction from basic cancer biology to tumour immunology and immunotherapy after joining UCL in 1998. The scientific observations that led to this new focus arose whilst investigating the genetics of rhabdomyosarcoma further. Through expression microarray studies to identify PAX3-FKHR regulated target genes, we discovered that PAX3-FKHR expressing tumours display a specific immunoinhibitory phenotype that is attributable to the fusion protein itself and its physical association with STAT3, a protein that was newly emerging as a central player in the control of the tumour immune environment. We showed that the interaction ofPAX3-FKHR with STAT3 resulted in a profoundly immunoinhibitory phenotype. This opened up a new conceptual appreciation to me that tumours with little evidence of immunogenicity could have immune evasion wired into their essential oncogenic programming. Hence apparent lack of reactive immunogenicity in histological terms does not preclude immunotherapy to target tumour antigens, if the immune evasion mechanisms can be concurrently targeted. Our work mapping the role of PAX3-FKHR was published in J Exp Med.

I have subsequently sought to investigate novel immunotherapy approaches for childhood cancers and therapeutic methods for immune modulation. This research focus is further justified by the relativelack of published work in the field of paediatric cancer immunotherapy in the UK and Europe, and the developing strengths of UCL and ICH in gene and celltherapy in immunodeficiency and haematology. In the last 7 years I have switched the disease specific focus of my clinical and scientific work towards the tumours neuroblastoma and high grade glioma; two childhood cancers withpoor prognosis and encouraging data on potential for response to immunotherapy.
Publications