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The University of Southampton

Dr Jo Tod MBBS, BSc, MRCP, PhD

NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Specialty Registrar in Gastroenterology, Hepatology & General Medicine

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Jo Tod is an NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, her research aims to improve our understanding of the molecular biology underlying hepatobiliary cancers.

Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses of all cancers; our goal is to contribute to improved outcomes for patients with this disease through an increased understanding of pancreatic cancer biology and the role of tumour microenvironment

Jo Tod was appointed as an NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Gastroenterology and Hepatology in March 2014. She graduated from Imperial College School of Medicine London in 2004 with MBBS Honours and a 1st class BSc in Endocrinology. She undertook her General Medical training in the Wessex deanery and obtained Membership to the Royal College of Physicians in 2007. Jo has held an NTN in Gastroenterology on the Wessex Specialist Training rotation since 2008 and is due to commence a 12-month Hepatology Subspecialty fellowship post in Sept 2015.

In 2011 she was awarded an MRC Clinical Training Fellowship to undertake a PhD studying molecular mechanisms of invasion in pancreatic cancer (PC) under the supervision of Professor Gareth Thomas and Dr David Fine in the Cancer Sciences Unit at University of Southampton. Jo’s research findings have been presented at local, national and international conferences. She won the Lord Smith Medal at the PSGBI in 2010 and was invited as a Keynote Speaker to the European Pancreatic Conference in 2014. Jo has been involved in public engagement including an oral presentation to MPs at the House of Commons All Parliamentary Group on Pancreatic Cancer.

Jo has established a strong research foundation in Pancreatic Cancer, including generating a pancreatic tissue bank and leading a multi-centre European Pancreas2000 project to examine the tumour biology of long survivors of PC, for which she was awarded a Future Leaders Award from Pancreatic Cancer UK. Since appointment she has been awarded a PCUK/Grand Charity Medical Research Grant and a Planets Charity Grant to fund her ongoing research projects.

Jo combines her research with ongoing clinical training.


BSc, Imperial College London (2002)
MBBS, Imperial College London (2004)
MRCP, Royal College of Physicians (2007)
MRCP SCE Gastroenterology, Royal College of Physicians (2011)
Diploma in Pancreatology, EPC/Pancreas2000 (2014)
PhD, University of Southampton (2014)

Appointments held

NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Southampton (2014 – present)

MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship - 2011-2014

Specialty Training Registrar Gastroenterology (Wessex) - (2008 – present)
- University Hospital Southampton
- St. Mary’s Hospital, Isle of Wight
- Royal Bournemouth Hospital

Core Medical Training Rotation (Wessex) - (2005-2008)
- University Hospital Southampton
- Winchester Hospital

Research interests

Our research focuses on cancer cell invasion with particular emphasis on the tumour microenvironment. The work is carried out in the Experimental Pathology Group led by Professor Gareth Thomas.

Dr Tod’s principle research interest is pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma (PC) has one of the worst outcomes of any cancer with a 5-year survival of only 3.7%. It is clear that new molecular-based treatments are required, in order to develop these we need a better understanding of the underlying pancreatic cancer biology.

Dr Tod works on several projects:

The role of Eps8 in αvβ6-dependent pancreatic cancer invasion

The spread of malignant cells locally (tumour invasion) is fundamental to cancer development and progression. Integrins are a family of cell surface receptor proteins that play a variety of roles in cancer. The integrin αvβ6 is not found on healthy cells but is upregulated in cancer. We and others have found that high levels of αvβ6 are seen in more than 70% of PCs and that αvβ6 can promote tumour invasion directly by increasing cell movement and indirectly by activating a signalling protein called TGF-β. TGF-β is critical to the formation of the characteristic fibrous supporting tissue surrounding the cancer cells which is known to promote tumour progression.

We have identified a novel link between αvβ6 and the protein Eps8. Eps8 is also upregulated in more than 70% PCs and plays a role of changing cell shape allowing cells to move and invade. We have found that a high level of Eps8 promotes αvβ6-dependent cell movement, yet inhibition of Eps8 promotes αvβ6-dependent TGF-β activation. αvβ6 is an exciting potential target for PC therapies however the activation of TGF-β by αvβ6 can have both positive and negative effects on PC progression. It is essential therefore that we understand the mechanisms underlying these critical functions of αvβ6, and we have been studying the role of Eps8 as a potential molecular switch controlling these functions. Understanding this process will give crucial insight into the biology of tumour cell invasion, and may uncover novel targets for the treatment of PC.

Tumour biology in long survivors of pancreatic cancer

Our study is a multi-centre European study developed within the Pancreas2000 program – a program designed to promote research collaborations in young researchers and doctors throughout Europe with an interest in the pancreatology. Dr Tod is the team leader for this study that aims to identify a large cohort of patients from across Europe with long survival following surgery for pancreatic cancer and investigate molecular markers within tumour tissue. Additionally we have established collaborations with Oxford Gene Technology in order to undertake genetic sequencing of a cohort of long and short survivors. With survival rates of 3.9% long survivors are a rare cohort and these patients may hold clues to potential mechanisms that prevent more aggressive disease.

Pancreatic tissue bank

Since 2011 Dr Tod has been the study coordinator of a clinical trial that recruits patients undergoing pancreatic resection at UHS to generate a tissue bank as a resource to investigate molecular and genetic mechanisms of pancreatic cancer progression. She collaborates with the Regional Wessex Genetics Laboratory (Professor Nick Cross) to investigate early genetic markers of pancreatic cancer in blood and tissue samples.

Prospective students and staff are encouraged to contact Dr Tod to discuss potential projects.


Clinical and Experimental Sciences

Affiliate Department(s)

Cancer Sciences

Research supervision
  • BMedSci and MMedSci projects
  • BMedSci and MMedSci student teaching and supervision
  • Bedside clinical teaching of undergraduate medical students during clinical attachments in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and General Medicine
  • Organised MRCP PACES teaching program 2007
Dr Jo Tod
Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Building 85, Life Sciences Building, Highfield Campus, Southampton, SO171BJ

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