UCL News


Exploring ways to treat kidney cancer using patients’ own cells in new UCL-GSK collaboration

11 May 2023

Researchers from the UCL Institute of Immunity & Transplantation (IIT) are leading a collaborative project with biopharma company GSK, aiming to discover innovative new kidney cancer treatments that use the patient’s own cells.

Image shows a microscope

Kidney cancer is one of the most invasive cancers in both men and women. Typically more than a third of patients (35%) die within five years of their initial diagnosis.

Through the three-year collaboration, researchers will investigate the role of a type of white blood cell within our immune system called a B regulatory cell, known as Breg, in kidney cancer and how the tumour microenvironment influences its formation. They will also explore potential approaches for immunotherapy, which targets the processes and elements of the immune system for the development of therapies.

Principal Investigator Professor Claudia Mauri (UCL IIT and Division of Infection & Immunity) previously led a team of UCL researchers in discovering that Bregs accumulate in kidney cancer. The UCL project team also includes Professor Hans Stauss (Director, UCL IIT) and Professor Maxine Tran (UCL Surgery & Interventional Sciences).

Professor Mauri said: “Bregs function to regulate the immune system by suppressing its responses, particularly by reducing inflammation caused by other types of immune cells. This inflammation is needed for the immune cells to kill cancer cells, and the presence of Bregs in cancers has been associated with a worse prognosis.

“Currently little is known about how Bregs contribute to cancer progression, and we believe that eliminating or silencing their function could be an effective cancer treatment. Through our work with GSK we hope to identify key molecules that are expressed only in Bregs in tumours. We will test whether inhibiting this molecule prevents Breg development and whether this could be used as an additional therapy for renal cell cancer and potentially other cancers.”

Dr Vassilis Georgiadis (Principal Partnerships Manager (Pharma & Healthcare) at Business & Innovation Partnerships, Research, Innovation & Global Engagement, UCL) added: “The development of this collaboration was a perfect example of two leading UK research and innovation organisations joining their expertise and vision and building a stellar research project in a bottom-up manner. UCL IIT is a world-leading site for immunotherapy research and translation and this partnership with GSK, a long-standing UCL partner, holds great promise for the discovery of therapeutic targets for kidney cancer.”

Professor Geraint Rees, Vice-Provost Research, Innovation & Global Engagement, UCL said: “Collaborations such as this between world-leading institutions drive innovation and allow experts in the field to improve their understanding of some of our deadliest diseases. Through this collaboration our world-leading oncology experts in the IIT will work with GSK’s innovative validation platforms to further our research and clinical expertise in the fight against kidney cancer.”

The Business & Innovation Partnerships team within UCL Innovation & Enterprise coordinated and supported the development of this collaboration.



Media contact

Kate Corry

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 6995

Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk