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3D hydrogel co-culture of MCF10a normal breast cells (Red) with human mammary fibroblasts (Green)
3D hydrogel co-culture of MCF10a normal breast cells (Red) with human mammary fibroblasts (Green)

Research groups

Gillian Farnie


University Research Lecturer and Cellular Assays Group Leader


Dr Gillian Farnie studied pharmacology at the University of Liverpool (UK) and did her PhD in molecular oncology at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.  Postdoctoral training at the University of Manchester focused her research on developing novel 3D culture systems to grow human ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and investigating epidermal growth factor and Notch signalling.  During this time she forged a research niche in cancer stem cell (CSC) signalling and was awarded an esteemed 5-year Breast Cancer Now Scientific Fellowship to start her research group. 

Based at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre her research team focused on the role of breast CSCs in the resistance to radio and chemotherapy, exploring FAK and Wnt signalling as well as metabolic and epigenetic targets.  Dr Farnie moved to the University of Oxford in 2016 where her team have continued interest in CSC and treatment resistance and are developing novel 3D models to provide a more faithful in vitro environment to study human cancer.  Her team also work in collaboration with the SGC to discover novel targets for drug discovery.

Research Areas

Gillian Farnie leads a research team focused on breast cancer resistance at the University of Oxford. Her research investigates how cancer stem cells (CSC) contribute to treatment resistance and tumour recurrence/metastasis to discover new targets to eliminate these treatment resistant populations.   To support these studies the Farnie Lab utilise PDX which are key for measuring CSC tumour initiating frequency, the gold standard CSC assay but also develop in vitro models to recapitulate the patient environment as closely as possible to measure CSCs in their complex tumour microenvironment. 

These in vitro models include; 1) peptide hydrogels that can be tailored to independently assess human extracellular matrix and tissue stiffness throughout breast cancer progression, 2) patient tissue ex-plant models which harness the inherent complexity of the tissue, maintaining epithelial proliferation, hormone signalling and cellular complexities of stromal/immune cells. 

Group Members

Ling Felce (Postdoctoral Research Assistant) - The role of of the YEATS family 

Vickie Gamble (Research Assistant) - SGC cellular assays project

Carina Gileadi (Research Assistant) - cell target engagment assays and 3D models

Jenny Ashworth (Postdoctoral Research Assistant) - NC3Rs project - Bespoke human 3D breast models

Liz Brown (DPhil Student) - The role of ACVR1 in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG


Dr Cathy Merry (University of Nottingham)

Prof Tony Howell (University of Manchester)

Miss Cliona Kirwan (University of Manchester)

Prof Louise Jones (Queen Marys University London)

Prof Udo Oppermann (University of Oxford)

Dr Sacha Howell (University of Manchester)

Key publications

Recent publications

More publications