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The University of Southampton

Dr Sarah Buchan BSc, PhD

Senior Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

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As a Senior Research Fellow and immunologist I am fascinated by how T lymphocytes protect us against infection and how these amazing cells can be used to combat cancer. My research focusses on understanding how some of the receptors expressed on the surface of T lymphocytes can be manipulated to best mobilise anti-tumour immunity.

T cells are motile killers capable of specifically destroying cancerous and infected cells; understanding what controls these powerful assassins will allow new cancer treatments to be developed.

Dr Buchan completed her PhD at the University of Southampton in 2005 studying the optimization of vaccine design and delivery to maximize T-cell responses to cancer cells under Prof. F. K. Stevenson. The principles established by this research, and her subsequent work targeting the leukemia-associated antigen WT1, triggered the inception of several ongoing clinical trials in cancer patients, overseen by Prof C. Ottensmeier.

In 2008 she moved to the group of Prof. Al-Shamkhani to study how members of the tumour necrosis factor superfamily modify the quality and quantity of T-cell activation. In 2009 she was awarded the Faculty Post-Doctoral Career Track Award enabling her to continue her research investigating the processes that regulate T-cell activity and function and how this information can be exploited for the eradication of cancer. 


BSc, Biology, University of Southampton (1998)
PhD, University of Southampton (2005)

Appointments held

2001-2005 Research Assistant/Part-time PhD student, University of Southampton

2005-2008 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Southampton

2008-present Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow and Career-Track Fellow, University of Southampton.

Research interests

Dr Buchan’s research interests revolve around the biology of T lymphocytes, a key cell type used by the immune system to combat infectious disesases and cancer. Her research seeks to understand how these cells can be activated to respond to tumour cells in vivo and how T-cell activity can be maintained in the face of suppressive mechanisms exploited by tumour cells.

Encouraging the activation of cancer-reactive T cells can be problematic in vivo as cancerous cells derive from ‘self’, posing a challenge for the immune system which is designed to respond to ‘foreign’ antigens. In recent years it has also become apparent that T cells present at tumour sites often become ‘exhausted’ characterised by decreased effector function and a propensity to undergo programmed cell death, driven by negative signals supplied through e.g. PD-1. To overcome these suppressive mechanisms Dr Buchan has been working with the group of Prof A. Al-Shamkhani to explore the T-cell activatory properties of members of the TNF receptor superfamily. This large family of receptors engage intracellular signalling pathways in T cells, including the pro-survival NF-kB pathway, to augment T-cell activation and longevity. Current research is focussed on exploring whether agonistic antibodies directed against members of the TNFRSF can augment local T-cell function in vivo and thereby improve rates of tumour regression. Her work has led to the publication of several studies showing the efficacy of this approach and how antibody structure can be optimised, and/or combined synergistically with other treatments, to further augment anti-tumour responses.


Cancer Sciences

Postgraduate supervision (PhD)

2019 - Marcus Widdess

2015 - Osman Dadas

2015 - Thomas Bailey

2012-2016 - Mohannah Fallatah


2018- Personal Academic Tutor BM5 student


National and International Responsibilities

Reviewer for Clinical and Experimental Immunology, Vaccine, Cellular and Molecular Immunology, Nature Communications.


Member of the Scientific Strategy Committee

Undergraduate study projects on an ongoing basis

Ad hoc contributor/marker to the iPhD and M.Sc. Allergy programmes.

Dr Sarah Buchan
Antibody and Vaccine Group Tenovus Research Building (MP88) Southampton General Hospital Tremona Road Southampton SO16 6YD

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