Molecular mechanisms: Experimental to first-in-human

Molecular mechanisms refers to the behaviour of genes and other biochemical constituents within cells. A solid understanding of molecular mechanisms underpins many of the most successful clinical therapies. However, despite the likely importance of good nutrition in helping to prevent cancer and improve outcomes after a diagnosis, its role and the molecular mechanisms in cancer prevention and management have not been a main focus for research.

Lay summary

Good nutrition is important both for normal and cancer cell behaviour because it determines the biochemical and hormonal environment that cells occupy. People’s patterns of diet and physical activity therefor influence cancer cell behaviour, as well as or interacting with) the gut microbiome (the bacteria that live in the large bowel), genetic predisposition, treatments including medications, or other coexisting disease. Although perhaps among the most modifiable parameters in a patient’s life, nutrition and physical activity are under-exploited in cancer prevention and treatment.


1. Establish a group of academics, clinicians, and public/patient representatives, who are interested in the molecular events that link nutrition and cancer
2. Perform research on the interaction between nutrition and cancer at the molecular level to improve quality of advice for the general public (to prevent cancer), and for cancer patients, to improve outcomes and recovery
3. Translate molecular findings to clinical trials in cancer patients

The members of this work stream have a diverse range of skills and experimental capabilities. We encourage new collaborators to contact the Work Stream chair, or Work Stream members based on expertise requirements. Although initially conceived of as a UK based collaborative network, we have growing international membership.

Interim Chair – Professor Alan Jackson, Emeritus Professor of Human Nutrition within Medicine, University of Southampton


Dr Rebecca Beeken – Yorkshire Cancer Research University Academic Fellow, University of Leeds

Dr Kirsten Brandt – Senior Lecturer, Newcastle University 

Professor Karen Brown – Professor of Translational Cancer Research, University of Leicester

Dr Vicky Coyle – Clinical Senior Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast

Professor Sarah Danson – Professor of Medical Oncology and Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology, University of Sheffield

Dr Rebecca Harmston – Public representative

Dr Michelle Harvie – Research Dietitian, Manchester Breast Centre

Professor Mark Hull – Professor of Molecular Gastroenterology and Honorary Consultant Gastroenterologist, University of Leeds

Professor Richard Martin – Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Bristol, Bristol Biomedical Research Unit

Professor Richard Mithen – Research Leader, Institute of Food Research

Dr Richard Skipworth – Consultant Surgeon, Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer and NHS Research Scotland (NRS) Clinician

Professor Paul Taylor – Professor of Chemical Education, University of Leeds

Dr James Thorne – Academic Fellow and Junior Group Leader, School of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Leeds

Dr James Turner – Senior Lecturer, University of Bath 

Dr Emma Vincent – Senior Lecturer in Molecular Metabolism, University of Bristol 

Dr Steve Wootton – Associate Professor in Human Nutrition, University of Southampton

Professor Thomas Yates – Professor of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Health, University of Leicester