The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies
Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies Bicentenary

World Cancer Day: tackling cancer at Roslin

Work at the Institute sheds light on how human cancers develop and how to treat them as well as our susceptibility to cancer.

On 4th February, we celebrate World Cancer Day, so we thought of giving an overview of research at The Roslin Institute with potential to tackle cancer.

Tumour immune cells could aid cancer therapies

Cancer cells.

Professor Tom Freeman’s research group has designed a new approach – based on gene analysis – that can easily spot the range of immune cells present in a tumour. These cells could help the body detect and kill cancer when activated by certain drugs. This pioneering technique could speed the development of cancer treatment and help doctors choose the best treatments for individual patients.

Chicken virus study sheds light on how human cancers develop


Marek’s disease is a highly contagious viral disease of poultry, which causes T cell lymphoma and tumour growth in internal organs as well as in feather follicles. Scientists found how the Marek's disease virus encourages tumour growth by switching off a gene. This gene controls anti-tumour mechanisms in chickens, humans and other mammals. These findings could improve our understanding of cancers that are caused by viruses, such as the human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical cancer.

More recently, Professor Mick Watson has received an award from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to use genome editing technology to make precise, small changes in the chicken genome that will disrupt the virus’ ability to initiate tumour growth.

An illustration of a DNA strand forming into the shape of a person with raised arms.

Why are some of us more susceptible to cancer?

Professor Albert Tenesa’s lab is investigating how our genes make some of us more susceptible to certain diseases, such as cancer, than others. In the future, this research could be used to predict disease and develop better drugs and preventive treatments.

A chart.

Towards leukaemia prevention

The Chromatin Lab explores how genes are abnormally regulated in genetic diseases such as cancer. More specifically, the team investigates the role of enzymes controlling epigenetic mechanisms involved in blood formation, but also their mutations found in leukaemia. In the future, the team will test current and new inhibitors that prevent these enzymes to cause leukaemia. The research has strong potential for the development of epigenetic therapy in the future.

Relevant links

Tumour immune cells could aid cancer therapies

Chicken virus study sheds light on how human cancers develop

New award boosts research into Marek’s disease

Albert Tenesa’s lab

Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics