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Professor Stephen Beers BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, PhD Biochemistry

Professor of Immunology and Immunotherapy

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Professor Stephen Beers is Professor of Immunology and Immunotherapy at the Centre for Cancer Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Antibody immunotherapy is transforming how cancer patients are treated. Despite the success of antibody drugs not all patients respond and few are cured. Our aim is to understand the role of host factors and the immune microenvironment in resistance to antibody therapy and generate new drugs and strategies to better kill malignant cells and cure patients.

Stephen Beers graduated from the University of Southampton in 1999 with a first class degree in Biochemistry. Subsequently he was awarded a personal PhD studentship from the BBSRC and graduated in 2003. He then moved to the Cancer Sciences Division (CSD) in the Faculty of Medicine and undertook his first postdoctoral fellowship in Immunochemistry and Immunotherapy. Following two successful postdoctoral positions he was awarded a career track fellowship and established his own group studying antibody effector function.

His research group is interested in how antibodies work to result in tumour regression. The research is currently focused on how the tumour microenvironment, particularly macrophages, affect effector function and how this could be manipulated to enhance antibody efficacy in patients. They have built a portfolio of complimentary models incorporating in vitro 3D modelling, appropriate in vivo model systems and primary clinical material.

The research group currently comprises; Dr Charles Birts, Against Breast Cancer Lecturer in Antibody Therapeutics (joint appointment with Professor Max Crispin, Biological Sciences), three postdoctoral fellows, three research technicians, 8 PhD students, and two clinical fellows, with many co-managed with other members of the Antibody and Vaccine Group.


BSc (Hons), Biochemistry 1st Class, University of Southampton, 1999
PhD, Biochemistry, University of Southampton, 2003

Appointments held

Chair of Immunology and Immunotherapy (2018 - present)
Academic Lead for Biomedical Research Facility (2015 – present)

PhD Supervision

Thomas Tipton (2015), Lang Dou (2016), Michael Marshall (2018), Emily Webb (2018), Julia Moreno-Vicente (2021)

Research interests

Antibody Therapy

Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) have become established in the treatment of a variety of malignancies - transforming patient outcomes. Despite this undoubted impact, responses remain variable and their mechanisms of action and of tumour resistance are controversial. Our research is focussed on understanding these complex processes using a variety of complementary models and systems to better inform antibody selection, design and clinical application.

Current research interests:

Macrophage biology and microenvironment – Our work has shown that a major mechanism through which current antibody therapies function is through Fc Receptor dependent phagocytosis and clearance by macrophages (Beers, Blood 2010, Tipton, Blood 2015). However, tumour associated macrophages have a pro-tumour, anti-inflammatory phenotype associated with a poor prognosis and response to a variety of therapeutic interventions. The understanding of how macrophages are manipulated by tumours in vivo and how they may be re-programmed to augment mAb immunotherapy is a critical area of study where data is currently lacking. Our current direction and interest lies in investigating how the suppressive tumour microenvironment might be manipulated to augment effector clearance of target cells. Work from our group has demonstrated that small molecule adjuvants can overcome a suppressed microenvironment and augment antibody therapy (Dahal, Cancer Research 2017). We now seek to determine the properties of these agents that determine efficacy so that we can develop agonists and strategies for clinical trials.

Nutrition, obesity and breast cancer - There is growing evidence that obesity may soon become the leading preventable cause of cancer in developed countries. However, there remains little understanding of the chronic inflammation sustained by immune cells residing in large adipose tissues and its association with development and progression of various cancers. Our group is working to understand the impact of obesity on breast cancer development, progression and therapeutic response. We are using a range of complementary studies; obese mouse breast cancer models, in vitro human 2 and 3D obese tumour culture assays and patient cohort studies to determine the potential for nutrient manipulation and drug intervention to break the inflammatory cycle.

Immunostimulatory antibody therapy - Immunostimulatory antibodies are a new and exciting branch of immunotherapy where the target cells for the therapy are not the tumour itself but effector cells of the immune system. These mAb are able in this way to harness and redirect the powerful capabilities of the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Our group led studies where we observed that the antibody requirements of mAb best able to elicit strong immunostimulatory signals and therapy differed markedly from that required for conventional targeted mAb therapy (e.g. rituximab). Using a variety of models unique to Southampton we are currently dissecting the mechanisms and cells required for their activity and therapeutic efficacy.

Organotypic models - Human 3D organotypic culture systems will allow us to better understand the impact of intercellular interactions on cancer biology and mechanisms of therapeutic efficacy.  In particular these models will provide an unparalleled opportunity to manipulate cancer cells in a more meaningful/physiological microenvironment and thereby discover relevant molecular and cellular mechanisms of response to therapeutic intervention. Our group has a number of collaborative projects developing these models within Southampton and beyond.

Funding: Against Breast Cancer, BioInvent International, Cancer Research UK, National Institutes of Health

Research group

Cancer Sciences

Affiliate research groups

Cancer Sciences Research group, Centre for Cancer Immunology , Antibody and Vaccine Group

Academic Lead for Biomedical Research Facility

National and International

Main organiser for Federation of American Societies For Experimental Biology Scientific Research Conference ‘Immunoreceptors and Immunotherapy’ 2022

External Scientific Reviewer

BBSRC, Breast Cancer Now, Cancer Research UK, Bloodwise, Dutch Cancer Society, Flanders Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Irish Cancer Society, Israel Science Foundation, MRC, NC3R, Neuroblastoma Australia, North West Cancer Research, Swiss National Science Foundation, ZonMw (The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development), and Scientific Review Panel Member for FRIMEDBIO at the Research Council of Norway

Journal Editorial Board Member

Antibodies (2019 - present) 

Article Reviewer for high impact journals

Science, Nature Communications, Blood, Journal of Clinical Investigation, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Cancer Immunology Research, PloSOne, Haematologica, Journal of Immunology, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, European Journal of Immunology, Immunology, Antibodies

Consultancy to a number of biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies

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Book Chapter





BM5 Immunology subject lead, lecturer and tutor on Year 1 and 2 Immunology Courses.

Undergraduate and MMedSc admissions interviewer.

BMedSc/MMedSc Provides laboratory based projects and research journal club tutorials. Offers 1-2 project placements that investigate direct targeting and immunomodulatory antibody therapy, tumour microenvironment and effector function.

BIOL3037 Immunology Module Lecturer

BIOL6038 Immunology Lecturer and PhD proposal advisor

Integrated PhD Cancer Pathway Lecturer and tutor for ‘Host Immunity to Cancer’ and provides laboratory based research projects. Offers 1-2 project placements that investigate direct targeting and immunomodulatory antibody therapy, tumour microenvironment and effector function.

Professor Stephen Beers
Centre for Cancer Immunology, Cancer Sciences

Room Number : SGH/Centre for Cancer Immunology/MP127

Professor Stephen Beers's personal home page
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