Dr Katie Finegan MRPharmS

Senior Lecturer in Cancer Biology and Therapy

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I am a cellular signalling expert with over 15 years of experience working in translational research.  My research interest is the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), which are signalling proteins that regulate all aspects of cell biology, with particular focus on a member of that protein family – ERK5 - and its contribution to cancer development and fibrotic disease. I have an outstanding track record in MAPK/ERK5-based research and my research has significantly increased the research knowledge in this field. My work was the first to reveal a role for ERK5 in cancer inflammation.  These highly-cited, seminal findings have underpinned the ongoing development of ERK5-targeted agents for the treatment of cancer, both in my group and internationally and led to nominations by senior colleagues for external awards for my research.

There are two complimentary, synergistic strands to my research.  One strand focuses on advancing knowledge of MEK5-ERK5-driven biology and the other develops new compounds to target this pathway. Knowledge acquisition from the biology projects supports and enhances my drug development programme.  Conversely, drug development work provides tool compounds to enhance outputs from my biological studies.  Together, this cohesive programme of work has enabled me to have real-world impact from my research by converting my basic biology findings into novel therapeutics (via Drug-Discovery award from CRUK), ultimately for future patient benefit for both cancers of unmet need and fibrotic conditions (impaired wound healing and lung fibrosis). 

Ongoing projects

  • Creating novel ERK5 inhibitors for the treatment of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) (CRUK Small Moleucle Award)
  • Understanding how ERK5 prevents metastatic spread of osteosarcoma (Willberry PhD studentship)
  • Evaluating the role of ERK5 in adamantinoma (BCRT research grant)

  • Understanding how EDAR-signalling modulates susceptibility to skin and colorectal cancer

  • Exploring the utility of ERK5 and MEK5-targeted agents to treat pulmonary fibrosis (MRC CiC)

  • Targeting ERK5 to improve responses to radiotherapy and chemotherapy in TNBC (PhD studentship)

  • Understanding how ERK5 acts as an essential conduit for inflammatory responses in mesothelioma (PhD studentship)

  • Validating novel therapeutics that target cancer-associated inflammation (Astex Pharmaceuticals)

  • Delineating MAPK-driven macrophage responses during wound healing (PhD studentship)

Areas of expertise

Research Networks and Beacons

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