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Adrian Harris, MD, D.Phil

Professor of Medical Oncology,
University of Oxford
Director, Cancer Research UK Medical Oncology Unit
Oxford, United Kingdom

Current Research

  • Seeking new strategies to prevent tumor growth.

  • Studies are ongoing to test novel targets to block tumor metabolism and prevent new blood vessel development.

  • These studies have the potential to open new avenues of cancer therapy to prevent breast cancer from becoming a threatening disease.

As tumors increase in size, they must build new blood vessels for delivery of oxygen and nutrients, a process called angiogenesis. Anti-angiogenic therapies target this process as a means to prevent tumor growth by creating hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions that are toxic to cells. Research suggests, however, that these therapies cause changes in tumor metabolism, allowing the tumor to survive with low oxygen and energy and thus become resistant to the therapy.

Research by Dr. Harris' lab has shown that when a tumor blood supply is blocked, i.e. with antiangiogenic drugs, the tumor compensates by increasing metabolic (energy producing) pathways such as glutamine metabolism.

Glutamine is an essential amino acid required at high amounts to support tumor growth, particularly in triple negative breast cancers. Dr. Harris's laboratory is working to find ways to target both angiogenesis and tumor metabolism to improve response to anti-angiogenic therapies and prevent tumor growth.

They have found a way to monitor glutamine metabolism in breast tumor using PET scans, which makes it possible to test drugs that target glutamine and see which patients get the most benefit. Studies are ongoing to test the effect of anti-glutamine agent in patients.

Another approach to block angiogenesis is through a pathway called ELTD1 that is active in endothelial cells that surround the tumor. Dr. Harris' team will analyze DNA and RNA of tumor endothelial cells, to understand, for the first time, their unique biology, how they differ from patient to patient, and how to target them.  

This study has the potential to open up new avenues of breast cancer therapy.  


Adrian L. Harris, MD, DPhil is Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Oxford and Director of the Cancer Research UK Medical Oncology Unit. He is a Consultant Medical Oncologist at the National Health Service, Oxford Radcliffe Hospital Trust, a NIHR Comprehensive Biomedical Research Center designated by Cancer Research as one of three Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

Professor Harris's research is on tumor angiogenesis, hypoxia and the metabolic response to hypoxia as key targets for anti-cancer therapy. He  is interested in understanding the basic biology and science of disease, how this could be applied in development of new treatments and selecting the right patients for the right therapies.

He received his Honors bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery in 1973 at Liverpool University, but undertook an intercalated Biochemistry degree (first class honors) in 1969. He worked at Oxford University from 1975-1978, where he conducted research on mechanisms of resistance to anti-cancer drugs. He then took up a lectureship at the Royal Marsden Hospital where he developed an interest in the endocrine therapy of breast cancer with Professor Ian Smith, and helped develop early aromatase inhibitors.

In 1981 he was appointed Professor of Clinical Oncology at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and in 1988 he was invited to Oxford to take up the foundation chair in Medical Oncology and lead the CRUK Molecular Oncology Laboratories at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, one of the leading basic science institutes in the United Kingdom. 

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Housewares Charity Foundation Award

Area(s) of Focus