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The University of Southampton

Dr Natalia Savelyeva PhD

Lecturer in Cancer Immunology

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Dr Natalia Savelyeva is Lecturer in Cancer Immunology within Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Dr Natalia Savelyeva graduated from Moscow State University, Russia, with a degree in Biochemistry and Virology. Subsequently she completed her PhD at University of East Anglia in 1999 under supervision of Dr I Gibson. She then moved to Southampton to continue her training in the laboratory of Prof F.K. Stevenson where she was working on the development DNA fusion vaccines against hematologic malignancies. After completing her post-doctoral training she became an independent investigator in CSU, Faculty of Medicine, but continued working closely with Prof Stevenson. In 2013 she was appointed as a Lecturer in Cancer Immunology in CSU. Natalia’s main focus has been to develop novel conjugate cancer vaccines based on plant viral particles and to understand how cancer vaccines operate in the tolerogenic cancer setting. Aiming to take novel cancer vaccines into clinical setting, Natalia works in close collaboration with Prof Ottensmeier, a consultant oncologist with a core academic interest in early translation of immunotherapeutic strategies into the clinic.

A second line of research has concerned the maintenance of memory B-cell responses and has led to an increased understanding of IgG and IgM memory B cells and the role of T-cell help in guiding memory B cells towards responsiveness to antigen rather than tolerance.


BSC equivalent, Biochemistry, Moscow State University, Russia (1986)
Degree in Biochemistry and Virology, Moscow State University, Russia (1987)
PhD University of East Anglia (1999)

Appointments held

1998-2005 Research Fellow, Cancer Science Unit, School of Medicine, University of Southampton

2005-2013 Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Science Unit, School of Medicine, University of Southampton

2013 to present Lecturer in Immunology, Cancer Sciences Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton

Research interests

Cancer vaccines

With cancer vaccines starting to deliver on their long-awaited promise, novel powerful vaccines are required. Cancer antigens by themselves are weakly immunogenic because of central and peripheral tolerance. Together with Prof Freda Stevenson (CSU, Southampton) we have developed conjugate vaccines where weak cancer antigens are fused to strong immunogenic carries derived from pathogens to improve cancer vaccine immunogenicity (Figure 1). Both Fragment C of Tetanus toxoid and the coat protein of a plant virus have been used as immunogenic carriers. Conjugation engages the CD4 T-cell repertoire specific for these foreign antigens, and this leads to generation of cancer antigen-specific antibody and CD8+ T cells to attack cancer. These principles were initially used in DNA vaccines targeting a number of antigens in both solid tumours and hematologic malignancies, which are now in clinical trials in Southampton (Prof Ottensmeier, CSU Southampton). This conjugation strategy now has been applied to several other novel cancer vaccines modalities (Figure 1). Our novel conjugate vaccine for breast cancer has been developed in collaboration with Icon Genetics (Halle Germany) and utilises plant expression systems developed by Icon genetics for vaccine manufacturing. Together with Prof Ottensmeier and Dr E. Copson (CSU, Southampton) we are now planning to take this vaccine into phase I clinical trial in patients with metastatic breast cancer. Another novel vaccine design based on plant viral particles is also now being developed by the group (Figure 1).

Maintenance of B cell memory

Memory B cells express surface antigen receptors of either IgG or IgM isotype and are programmed to rapidly generate antibodies upon antigen recall. These antibody are essential for clearing infections and potentially for eliminating cancers. We have identified the critical factors for maintenance of memory B cells. In particular, we found that both IgG and IgM memory B cells require T-cell helper signals for responsiveness to antigen (Figure 2). Remarkably, in the absence of T-cell help high affinity IgG+ memory B cells become permanently and irreversibly unresponsive through deletional mechanisms when challenged by antigen (Figure 2). This involved cross-linkage of the B-cell receptor, but was largely independent of the inhibitory receptor FcγRIIB on B cells. In marked contrast, low affinity IgM+ memory B cells escape deletion and upon adoptive transfer are responsive to antigen stimulation when help is provided. Collectively, CD4+ T-cell help together with affinity for the antigen, guides memory B cells towards responsiveness rather than tolerance. These findings are of relevance to the maintenance of B-cell responses to antigen in the absence of T-cell help which occur in chronic infection and cancer. Together with Dr A. Allen (CSU, Southampton) and Dr K-M. Toellner (University of Birmingham, U.K.) we are now conducting a study to understand the nature of B-cell tolerance using a novel model of memory B cells we have recently developed.

Industrial collaborations

ICON Genetics, Halle, Germany: Usage of plant expression systems for vaccine manufacturing.
Touchlight Genetics, Leatherhead, UK. Novel genetic vaccines (together with Prof. Ottensmeier).

Induction of anti-cancer immunity by cancer conjugate vaccines
Fig. 1
Maintenance of B-cell memory
Fig. 2


Cancer Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Cancer Sciences Research group

PhD Supervisor

Supervised to completion:
Dr Jantipa Jobsri (with Prof F.K. Stevenson) completed 2010.
Dr Chuan Wang Second (with Dr S. Sahota) completed October 2013.

Mr Yidao Wang
Mr Warayut Chotprakaikiat (with Prof C.H. Ottensmeier)
Mr David Layfield (with Prof C.H. Ottensmeier)
Ms Ghazala Khan (with Dr B. Guinn, University of Bedfordshire)

Member of University Senate

Lecturer in Biology 3037 (“Humoral response and vaccination”; “Innate immunity”) and Nervous and Locomotion systems BM5 year 2, (“Innate immunity”).

Dr Natalia Savelyeva
Somers Cancer Research Building Southampton General Hospital Mail Point 824 Tremona Road Southampton SO50 5NA Tel: 023 8120 5097 Email:

Room Number: SGH/CSB/MP891

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