Research Themes

Genetics

Immunology

Skin cancer & Checkpoint Immunotherapy

COLLABORATORS

We collaborate with Paul's team to further our understanding of MAIT cell function 

We are working with Hélène and colleagues to further our understanding of trans acting eQTL 


We are collaborating with Audrey's team to look at regulation of IFNG receptors across T cell subsets

Benjamin P Fairfax

BM BCh PhD MRCP


Associate Professor

  • Principal Investigator
  • Tumour Microenvironment/ Cancer Immunology Theme co-Lead
  • Consultant in Medical Oncology

Research Summary

As a clinician I work in the Oxford Cancer Centre to treat skin cancer - whilst in my lab I research variation between individuals in immune responses, especially those that are determined by our genetics. Understanding what these are is important because it can provide an unbiased picture into immune pathways that may form targets for new cancer therapies, as well as help make our current medications more personalised. 

How we vary between one another in our genetic code has a critical impact on events throughout our lives that our influenced by our immune system. Whilst we most think of genetic variation influencing our susceptibility to infection, it is increasingly clear that small genetic changes can influence individual patient's ability to respond to cancer immunotherapy - in terms of both cancer shrinking, but also the development of side effects from treatment - so called 'immune related Adverse Events' (irAEs). 

My group has recently demonstrated that patients who develop irAEs from immunotherapy for melanoma tend to have better clinical outcomes - but this is not always the case, and some patients have excellent clinical outcomes without getting side effects. Nonetheless, the links between patient genetics, there immune responses to immunotherapy, development of irAEs and response to the tumour are very strong. By studying these we are developing a much better picture of how immunotherapy works and hope that we will be able to take these findings back to the clinic to better target treatments.

For a full list of my work:

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=d6N18F8AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao

Biography

I did my PhD at the MRC-LMCB, UCL completing this in 2003 and then completed my clinical training in Oxford.

I was accepted onto the Oxford Academic Foundation programme and, having become interested in human genetics, took time away from clinical training to gain postdoctoral experience. I was awarded a Wellcome MB-PhD postdoctoral Fellowship and I did this in Julian Knight's group at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics. 

Upon completion of this I specialised in Medical Oncology. I see skin cancer patients as  a Consultant in the Oxford Cancer Centre. I am co-lead for Immunology on the NIHR Oncology Translational Research Group.

CURRENT TEAM

Flavia Matos Santo, Research Assistant
Flavia started in the lab in April 2022 and contributes to all the projects as well as making sure the lab runs smoothly.

James is a Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics with an interest in the genetic determinants of gene expression with particular respect to immune cell function. He is currently investigating interactions between chronic viral infection and regulatory variants.

Dr Victoria Woodcock, Academic Clinical Lecturer
Victoria is a Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology with expertise in Cancer Immunity, and an interest in the identification of cancer recognising T cells. Her DPhil work, performed in Prof. Enzo Cerundolo's laboratory at the MRC HIU, employed both CyTOF and T Cell receptor sequencing to describe melanoma recognising T cells.

Chelsea started her DPhil in the group in 2017, successfully  defending her thesis in early 2022. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in the group, with her main interest being the B cell response to checkpoint immunotherapy and their  cross-talk with T cells. Her other key interest are mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells  - in both cancer and chronic viral infection.
Prior to starting his DPhil Orion worked at the Westmead centre in Sydney on dendritic cells in HIV. Orion started his work with us in October 2019 and is looking the genetic determinants of response to checkpoint blockade.

Rob came to the group as an Academic Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology - he obtained a CRUK predoctoral fellowship and used single cell sequencing to explore peripheral CD8 T cell responses to immune checkpoint blockers. He is particularly interested in changes in clonal reperoire over time. 

Piyush is a trainee surgeon from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and started in the group in October 2019. Piyush is exploring how obesity and BMI interact with gene expression across T cells and the impact on responsiveness to checkpoint blockade.

Elsi Jungkurth, DPhil student
Elsi started her DPhil in the group in late 2021, and is currently looking at the role different subsets of B cells play in the response to checkpoint immunotherapy. She is also very interested in the cytokine IL-7.



GROUP ALUMNI & NEXT DESTINATIONS

Sara Danielli, Research Assistant - Undertaking a DPhil with Jelena Mirkovic at the Kennedy Institute, Oxford

Alba Verge de los Aires

Alba was a Research assistant in the group from November 2019- late 2021. She has extensive experience in numerous immunological techniques, having previously worked at the Institut Necker-Enfants Malades in Paris where she worked on B cell subsets. Alba was a key figure for the group, preparing samples, organising the group and playing a key role in experimental success. She has now returned tolive with  her family in Barcelona.

Ros is a trainee pathologist who undertook her DPhil with the group starting in 2017, successfully passing her viva in late 2021 . Ros looked at circulating DNA in cancer patients as well as exploring the myeloid responses to checkpoint blockade using single-cell sequencing.

Isar started with the group in October 2017 and is the lead bioinformatician in the group. He is involved with multiple projects, but is particularly interested in context specific eQTL across immune cells.  He started working with the Oxford Genome Centre in mid 2021.