EGA Institute for Women's Health


Cancer Proteomics Group

Cancer Proteomics Group

Dr John Timms

Dr John Timms

Research Group Lead

IRIS profile


Our major research themes are the identification of cancer biomarkers and understanding the molecular basis of carcinogenesis through the application of quantitative proteomic technologies and other molecular biology techniques.

This research is funded through the Eve Appeal Gynaecological Cancer Trust, CR UK, MRC, Pancreatic Cancer UK and the UCLH Biomedical Research Centre.

Facilities include:

  • a biochemistry laboratory
  • dedicated clean rooms for high-sensitivity, low-contamination sample handling
  • fluorescence 2D difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) capability
  • liquid-handling robotics and liquid chromatography (LC) for protein and peptide separations
  • mass spectrometry (MS) instrumentation for expression profiling and protein/peptide characterisation (Thermo LTQ Orbitrap XL hybrid mass spectrometer with Dionex3000 nano-LC system and Bruker Ultraflex MALDI-TOF/TOF instrument)

Our mission is to also establish a core resource in proteomics, to provide technical expertise and knowledge in proteomic applications and data interpretation, to promote interaction between clinical and basic scientists and to provide training for the next generation of proteomics research scientists.

Above all, we wish to make a difference to healthcare by addressing important questions in disease through the application of proteomic technologies.


Analysis of human serum proteomes for cancer biomarker discovery

Our work aims to establish the potential of the human serum proteome for screening and early diagnosis of cancer in large populations and uses samples collected as part of the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) and other studies.

By using samples predating diagnosis we hope to identify early markers in the absence of non-specific late stage changes.

Biomarker discovery work uses multi-dimensional protein and peptide separations linked to tandem MS with isobaric mass tagging for quantification.

By comparing profiles of serum from healthy volunteers, patients with benign and malignant disease our goal is to identify candidate biomarkers for differential diagnosis and early detection of ovarian, breast, pancreaticobiliary and colorectal cancers and endometriosis.

Promising markers are being further validated in independent sample sets using immune- and MS-based assays and multi-marker models developed for translation to the clinic.

ErbB2/HER2 signalling in breast cancer

Research is aimed at identifying targets of ErbB2 and the growth factors which activate the ErbB receptor family of tyrosine kinases.

Parallel differential mRNA and protein expression analyses have been applied to profile model breast cancer cell lines to understand how target genes are regulated by ErbB2 overexpression and specific receptor ligands.

Targets of interest are being validated and functionally characterised using cell-based assays following siRNA-mediated knockdown.

Further work applying protein expression and phosphoproteomic profiling methods is aimed at understanding ErbB signalling and regulated expression at the molecular level and relating this to cellular phenotype

Ovarian cancer biology

This research is aimed at a better understanding of the molecular events required for ovarian cell carcinogenesis, tumour progression and chemoresistance, and to thereby identify potential diagnostic, prognostic and predictive biomarkers for ovarian cancer.

Work involves the application of complementary proteomic technologies to profile novel cell models of early ovarian epithelial cell transformation, metastasis, tumour suppression and chemoresistance.

Candidate genes of interest are further validated and functionally characterised using RNAi-mediated knockdown and assessment of phenotype using cell-based assays.

Research team

Dr John F. Timms (Reader) - Group lead

Dr Harry Whitwell (Research Associate) - Development of improved tests for the early detection of ovarian cancer

Dr Joy Cuenco (Research Associate) - Creating a rapid diagnostic pathway for pancreatic cancer

Dr Oleg Blyuss (Research Assoiate) - Mathematical modelling of tumour marker data

Mr Darren Thomas (PhD Student) - Identifying risk factors and biomarkers for the early detection of colorectal cancer

Mr Tendayi Samuriwo (PhD Student) - Characterisation of ErbB2 mediated signalling events in breast cancer