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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.
  • These studies have the potential to open new avenues of targeted cancer therapy.

Cancer cells can survive on very low amounts of oxygen by adjusting their metabolism. The altered metabolism causes the production of acid. Because normal cells don’t live under similar condition, the acidic environment of tumors creates a potential target for anti-cancer therapy. Dr. Harris is conducting studies that focus on tumor cell metabolism and ways to leverage this survival tactic for targeted treatment approaches. 

Full Research Summary

Tumors grow under conditions that would be toxic for normal cells, such as in a low oxygen and acidic environment. Acidity develops because the low oxygen supply to the tumor forces the tumor cells t to adjust their metabolism, and this generates lactic acid and another acid called carbonic acid.

Dr. Harris’ laboratory has shown that the acidity in the tumor microenvironment suppresses the tumor- fighting immune cells, while stimulating a pro-tumor immune response. In laboratory experiments, they recently discovered that the enzyme that produces carbonic acid is commonly upregulated in triple negative breast cancer cells and confirmed that these tumors had high levels of the pro-tumor immune cells and low levels of anti-tumor immune cells.

This year, they will focus on ways to enhance anti-tumor immunity by blocking the production of carbonic acid in the tumor microenvironment, as well as continuing their ongoing studies in tumor metabolism.

These studies will inform new targeted strategies to block the growth of aggressive breast cancers.


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. 

Grid Reasercher Headshot - Harris Adrian

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Blizzard Entertainment Award

Area(s) of Focus