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The mission of the Oxford Cancer Immuno-Oncology Network (OCION) Funding Scheme is to pump-prime innovative Oxford-based immuno-oncology research and build capacity in cancer immunology. We sat down with 2023 awardees, David Church and Luciana Gneo, to discuss what research the fund will enable them to carry out.

David is a Cancer Research UK Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellow and Luciana a postdoctoral fellow based at the Centre for Human Genetics within the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Their research focuses on interactions between tumours and the immune system in bowel and womb cancers.

Please tell us in lay terms what your research focus is.  

We study cancers of the bowel and womb. Our work aims to identify the mechanisms by which these cancers grow, in order that we can target them to treat or even prevent cancer. We are particularly interested in how abnormalities in the DNA of these cancers induces the immune system to attack the cancer, and the strategies cancers use to escape this.

What are the potential implications of this work for patients?  

The overarching aim of our work is to identify features which can be targeted by drugs or vaccination for more effective cancer treatment or even prevention.

What do you think are the major obstacles for the cancer field to overcome in the next 10 years? 

We now know that by the time of diagnosis, many cancers have developed multiple mechanisms to avoid destruction by the immune system and are resistant to many therapies. While more effective drugs and other therapies will help here, a key priority is to detect cancers earlier, when they have not developed these mechanisms, meaning that treatments are more effective.

What does Oxford Cancer and OCION mean for you and your research?

Oxford Cancer and OCION provide invaluable support for our research. In addition to vital funding for experiments, they have also fostered a collaborative network of researchers who benefit greatly from the synergies this brings.

Read more about David and Luciana’s work on their NDM profiles.