Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Cancer Immunology and Inflammation

Cancer Immunology and Inflammation

The Institute of Cellular Medicine (ICM) is a world-leading centre of research excellence in UK Biomedical sciences and clinical translation.

ICM research addresses chronic diseases impacting many people, including cancer. Several ICM investigators have interests in cancer immunology, with particular emphasis on inflammation and immunology in tissue microenvironments where tumours develop. This initiative is responsive to the new paradigm that chronic inflammation associated with tumours is a critical factor driving tumour development and resistance to standard therapies such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy.


The immune system has the potential to destroy tumour cells selectively. However, local inflammatory processes inhibit immune responses directed against tumour cells for reasons that are still unclear but are probably linked to hallmark ‘healing responses” that nurture tumour development and protect them from immune-mediated destruction. This paradigm calls for more research to understand how inflammation and the immune system promote tumour growth by inhibiting natural anti-tumour immunity and impeding standard cancer treatments.

Research teams in ICM focus on understanding how chronic inflammation in the tumour microenvironment (TME) establishes ‘immune checkpoints’ that inhibit immunity and how to develop novel immunotherapies that disrupt these robust barriers to effective cancer treatment. ICM groups study elevated tryptophan catabolism mediated by cells expressing indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase (IDO) and the effect of immune checkpoint blockade (PD1/PDL-1 pathways) on specific types of T cells and innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) that regulate immunity in the TME. Other ICM groups study mechanisms by which myeloid cells, in particular neutrophils, promote cancer on the background of chronic inflammation, and identifying biomarkers of skin cancer (including diagnostic, prognostic and companion biomarkers of melanoma) development as well precision based therapeutic strategies through which to target cell signaling pathways that regulate melanoma progression.