Prof Anthony Whetton

Professor of Cancer Cell Biology

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Research interests

New systems biology approaches will transform biomedical research. One key strand of this new approach is proteomics/mass spectrometry. I have worked effectively with clinical colleagues in the field of haematology for many years. However, my interactions now encompass research into many other malignancies and, for example, diseases of pregnancy and the lungs, due to the development of an “outstanding” (metrics: LLR international panel who site visited in 2013) mass spectrometry/proteomics facility. I advise internationally leading clinician scientists/bioscientists on the use of mass spectrometry and proteomics in their research. This is essential; too often these complex systems biology approaches lead to failure because of poor experimental design and/or lack of awareness of the technique’s limitations. The development of new biomarkers and surrogate endpoint markers is a key requirement for clinical trials and closing the translational gap in medicine. The establishment of a platform for biomarker discovery and validation from biological fluids (more generally available than biopsy material) has been a growing theme of my research.

More specifically my major research area is concerned with the development of primitive hematopoietic cells into mature myeloid cells and how this process is affected by leukaemia-causing oncogenes. In the past few years I have used a systems biology approach to address this issue. As many leukaemogenic oncogenes are engaged in protein post-translational modification, such as phosphorylation or induction of ubiquitination, I developed a proteomics/mass spectrometry laboratory. This set of techniques can be applied to any biomedical or biological research project. Thus my interest in differentiation and development means I have obtained funding for systems biology analyses of embryonic stem cells. My current research interest can be summarised as: 

  • Development of new mass spectrometry techniques for large scale relative quantification of proteins, phosphorylation, ubiquitination and acetylation sites.
  • Systematic application of mass spectrometry and proteomics to define and compare normal and malignant hematopoietic stem cells, identifying common targets in the leukaemias and myeloproliferative disorders.
  • Follow up on target proteins affected by leukaemogenic tyrosine kinases, e.g. phosphorylation/activation of CD45
  • Definition of embryonic stem cell differentiation mechanisms using proteomics
  • Development of clinical proteomics for clinical trials

The laboratory therefore uniquely combines high end mass spectrometry and cell biology. We provide high end mass spectrometry to a variety of projects via collaboration.