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BCRF Grantee Since


Area(s) of Focus

Adrian Harris, MD, D.Phil

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

Current Research

As tumors increase in size they must build new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis, in order to deliver oxygen and nutrients. Anti-angiogenic therapies target this process as a means to prevent tumor growth by creating hypoxic (low oxygen) conditions that are toxic to the cell. 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. 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 previously shown that metformin, a drug commonly used to treat metabolic abnormalities associated with diabetes, has direct effects on breast cancer, but that the tumors adapt to metformin treatment by taking up glutamine, an important amino acid for cancer growth. The also showed that fat metabolism and a protein called Fatty Acid binding Protein 4 (FABP4) are critical to this adaptation making cells resistant to hypoxic conditions caused by anti-angiogenic therapies. In the coming year they will continue work on these projects with the goal of combining approaches to block tumor adaptation mechanisms and improve response to anti-angiogenesis therapies in breast cancer.


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.