UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science


Translational Surgical Research Centre (TASER)

Head: Professor John Kelly

The Translational Uro-Oncology Group located within the Division of Surgery and Interventional Science and the UCL Cancer Institute, embeds high quality translational research within surgical clinical trials to bring cutting edge technologies into mainstream clinical practice.  We use molecular phenotyping to identify biomarkers which can be used to improve cancer detection and the selection of therapies to enhance outcomes for patients with genito-urinary malignancies.  Our clinical studies portfolio extends from early phase proof of concept to large, phase III multi-centre and randomised controlled trials.  The collection of samples including cancer tissues and liquid biopsy (blood and urine) are embedded within our clinical trials and enabling genomic research to be conducted on a high quality bio-repository with links clinical outcomes data.

Current research focus

  • Early detection and improved surveillance of bladder cancer (Funding MRC) 

    Our UroMark assay, which has undergone Proof-Of-Concept studies and  is currently in Phase III stage of testing, is a key area of the group’s research activity. With over £1.5M funding from the MRC it has the potential to change clinical practice in bladder cancer detection and surveillance. The DETECT-I and DETECT-II studies form a critical part of the clinical validation of the utility of this 150 locus epigenetic  biomarker assay. With more than XX participating centres in the UK and two collaborators in Spain, the clinical trials are on target to recruit circa 1300 patients with haematuria or established bladder cancer.

  • Characterisation of genertic alterations in penile cancer (Orchid)

    Cancer of the penis is a rare but potentially mutilating and deadly disease in the Western world. The most important factor in determining the treatment and survival is whether the cancer has spread to glands in the groin. Currently, radiological scans are not accurate enough to determine if the cancer has spread. A trial called MRI-PET at UCLH is assessing whether MRI-PET scans are accurate enough to detect this disease. Our lab is undertaking the translational component of this project where tumour and blood samples will be collected for molecular analysis.

    We currently hold one of the largest biobanks of penile cancer tissue. This is enabling us to study the molecular biology of penile cancer and uncover the main drivers of this disease. We are currently undertaking the following projects:

    • Characterising the molecular biology of penile cancer
    • Determining the main drivers of cancer spread
    • Assessing the use of a blood based diagnostic test.
  • Hyperthermia Programme (HIVEC-II and HYMN studies)

    John Kelly is the PI for two bladder cancer trials investigating the use of hyperthermia as a treatment for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. The HYMN trial (ISRCTN85785327) is a randomised controlled trial comparing intravesical hyperthermic Mitomycin C to a second course of BCG/ standard therapy in non-muscle invasive bladder cancer patients (MIBC) who have failed intravesical BCG treatment. HIVEC-II (ISRCTN23639415) is a randomised controlled trial comparing intravesical hyperthermic Mitomycin C to conventional intravesical Mitomycin C in patients with intermediate risk NMIBC. As part of the translational arm of these studies, a prospective collection of urine, blood and tissue is being undertaken. The Kelly group is investigating the use of novel urinary biomarkers to identify patients who develop disease recurrence as well as predict recurrent disease. We are also investigating the use of other chemotherapeutic drugs with hyperthermia in bladder cancer cell lines.

Contact us via j.d.kelly@ucl.ac.uk