Fixing the plumbing – studying tumour blood vessels
London Research Institute
44 Lincoln's Inn Fields
Web: Lab website
About Holger Gerhardt
Dr Holger Gerhardt runs the Vascular Biology Laboratory at Cancer Research UK's London Research Institute. He and his team are investigating how blood vessels grow towards tumours, providing them with the oxygen and nutrients they need as fuel. Understanding how this ‘biological plumbing’ works - and how it can be shut down - is vital if we are to beat cancer.
Growing a blood supply
Without a blood supply, a tumour can only grow to the size of a grain of sugar. But early on, cancer cells send out molecular signals that ‘hijack’ nearby blood vessels, causing new vessels to start sprouting towards the tumour. This process is known as angiogenesis.
Dr Gerhardt and his team are studying these signals in great detail, using high-powered microscopes to watch the growth of blood vessels in living tissue.
A tumour’s blood supply is its lifeline. Without it, the cancer cells cannot get enough oxygen or nutrients, and they cannot spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Understanding how this blood supply develops and finding ways to shut it off will provide valuable clues for new treatments, with the potential to save many lives.