Cancer cells


General enquiries:
Dr Chiara Recchi
+44 (0)20 7594 1549

Group lead
Professor Hani Gabra

Disease areas

What we do

Our focus is on understanding how tumour suppressors may be involved in the development of cancer, in particular genes that regulate Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTKs). One such gene is OPCML, which is present in normal cells but is subsequently switched off in cancer, resulting in poor survival outcomes. We are interested in understanding how this gene is regulated, how it functions in cells, and how it could ultimately be used as a therapeutic. 

Why it is important

RTKs are often overactive in several cancer types. They act like the accelerator pedal in a car; tumours therefore grow uncontrollably, spread around the body and become resistant to therapy. Drugs that block specific RTKs have shown to be beneficial in many cancers; however, cancer cells are complex and are capable of bypassing these drugs - our OPCML based drug strategy seeks to both stop RTK activation, and solve this complex bypass problem.

How it can benefit patients

By targeting genes that regulate RTKs, there is potential to develop novel gene-based cancer therapies to benefit patients. Due to the location and site of action of OPCML on the cell surface, there is a rare opportunity to reintroduce this tumour suppressor function back into the cancer cells in the form of a OPCML based drug. Furthermore, since OPCML is a normal product of healthy cells, its use as therapeutic should result in minimal toxicity.

Summary of current research

  • Understanding the mechanism of OPCML trafficking in cells, i.e. how it moves in and out cells
  • Understanding how OPCML associates with its interacting partners (e.g. RTKs) and how it modulates their function
  • Structural biology of OPCML
  • Therapeutic development of OPCML as an anti-cancer drug
  • Development of new model systems



Public engagement

We have frequent public engagement through visits to the Ovarian Cancer Action (OCA) Research Centre and interaction with the Ovarian Cancer Action Voices group.

Clinical trials

A proposed Phase Ib/II clinical trial with BergenBio investigating their AxL inhibitor in ovarian cancer is in development. For more patient-related information please see Ovarian Cancer Action.

PhD students

When we have funding for PhD studentships, we advertise them through central channels such as Find a PhD. Information is also available on the Surgery and Cancer study page. If no studentships are currently advertised, please get in touch with the group lead with proposed project titles to discuss further. 

Current PhD students: 

  • Haonan Lu
  • Youngrock Jung
  • Mohammad Alomary
  • Eloise Morecroft
  • Aline Teixeira Marinho

Our researchers

Dr Claudia von Arx

Image Description

Dr Claudia von Arx
Research Postgraduate