Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Staff Profile

Dr Felicity May

Senior Lecturer



B.Sc. Hons           Pure Science, University of Glasgow

D.Phil.                   Biochemistry, University of Oxford


Scholarship and Fellowship Awards:

MRC Training Scholarship.

Royal Society Research Fellowship.

EMBO Long Term Travelling Fellowship.

Royal Society University Research Fellowship.


Previous Substantive Appointments:

Chargée de Recherche, INSERM U148, Montpellier, France.

Lecturer, Department of Pathology, University of Newcastle..

Senior Lecturer, Department of Pathology, University of Newcastle.



Breast Cancer Research Group

British Association for Cancer Research

European Association for Cancer Research

Oesophagogastric cancer group


Overall Research Interests

The molecular basis of breast, gastric and oesophageal cancer development

Molecular diagnostics for improved treatment individualisation in breast, gastric and oesophageal cancer patients

Development and pre-clinical assessment of novel therapies for breast, gastric and oesophageal cancer patients

 We work on the dependence and response of adult adenocarcinomas, majorly of the stomach, oesophagus and breast, and gynaecological cancers, to steroidal and protein hormones. We investigate how these dependencies may be developed therapeutically, particularly by inhibition of receptors and protein kinases. We are interested in how malignant cells evolve and adapt to invade effectively, and to acquire therapeutic resistance.  We are interested in the unexploited prognostic, predictive and pharmacodynamic potential of biomarker measurements on circulating tumour cells and other disseminated malignant cells.

 Theme 1: Dependence and response of malignant of cells to endocrine stimuli.

Our research aims to understand in what way and how malignant cells respond to external growth factors in particular oestrogens, insulin-like growth factors, epidermal growth factors and trefoil factors. Future work will be informed by recent whole genomic analyses that demonstrate that individual cancers are driven by specific pathways.  It is important to validate these findings especially in oesophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma for which there are scarce effective therapeutic options.  Ex vivo analyses on disseminated tumour cells isolated directly from patients will contribute to validation of novel targets. The goal is to provide preclinical and translational evidence for clinical trials in oesophagogastric cancers.

Theme 2: Validation of predictive and pharmacodynamic biomarkers

The heterogeneity of cancer and different responses of individual tumours to cytotoxic and biological drugs necessitates effective patient stratification if response rates are to increase and novel therapies are to be adopted. The value of predictive biomarkers of response to targeted therapies is proven in breast cancer but we have demonstrated that it could be improved. Our work combines preclinical identification of potential predictive biomarkers with translation validation. The potential of biomarker measurements in disseminated disease for initial treatment stratification and for therapeutic monitoring is a particular future focus.

Theme 3: Evolution of malignant disease

We are interested in how malignant cells disseminate in individual patients, in how cells in the primary tumour evolve, and how they differ from those in the circulation, bone marrow or secondary deposits. These studies will further understanding of the disease and have the potential to improve pre-operative staging of oesophagogastric cancer patients.  Analyses on sequential samples from patients with advanced disease will increase understanding about this evolution and determine if monitoring might inform patient management. We should like to develop our work on disseminated cells isolated from patients who acquire resistance to novel therapies. The large number of circulating tumour cells identified in some oesophagogastric cancer patients suggests that we should be able to isolate the cells for individual genomic analyses and potentially to study the cells in culture.


Postgraduate Supervision

Masters students registered of MRes Programmes or MSc Medical Sciences Programmes

Intercalated medical students

PhD students

Clinical Research Fellows



Breast Cancer Campaign

Cancer Research UK (CR-UK)

JGW Patterson Foundation

Medical Research Council (MRC)

Newcastle Healthcare Charity

Northern Oesophagogastric Cancer Fund

Wellbeing of Women


Postgraduate Teaching

Degree Programme Director, MSc Medical Sciences Programme 5814F

Programme Leader, MRes Cancer Programme 4816F

Chairman Board of Examiners, MSc Medical Sciences Programme 5814F

Module Leader, MMS8101 Cancer Studies Module

Module Leader, MMS8107 Medical Research Practice Module

Module Leader, MMS8199 Dissertation Module

Module Leader, MMB8007 Cancer Studies Module


Undergraduate Teaching

Lecturer, BMS3010 Genetics of Common Disease

Supervisor, BSc Biomedical Sciences Programme B940

Supervisor, BSc Physiological Sciences Programme B100

Supervisor, BSc Pharmacology Programme B210

Supervisor, MSci Biomedical Sciences Programme B900