As a clinical pathologist and tumour biologist, Gareth Thomas’s research is focused how fibroblasts affect cancer progression, characterising the phenotypes and functions of different fibroblast subpopulations and investigating how fibroblasts interact with immune cells to suppress anti-tumour immunity. The research has a strong translational component aiming to develop new therapies that target fibroblasts to overcome immunotherapy resistance. Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, his research group interacts widely with other members of Cancer Sciences, the Faculty of Medicine, the University, and colleagues in academia and industry, both nationally and internationally.
- Fibroblast biology and immunology
- Tumour microenvironment
- Cancer Immunotherapy
Professor Thomas’s team is investigating the role of cancer-associated fibroblasts in tumours; characterising phenotype and function, with a focus on interactions with immune cells and mechanisms by which CAF promote tumours immune escape and promote resistance to immunotherapy. The aim of the lab is to develop novel therapies that target CAF to overcome immunotherapy resistance, and the group collaborates widely with industry partners to deliver this. A major focus of the group is head and neck cancer, with clinical studies overseen by Professor Emma King (consultant Head & Neck Surgeon).
The research group typically comprises 3-4 Postdoctoral Fellows, 1 research technician, 2-4 PhD students and 3 medical laboratory scientists.
External roles and responsibilities
Gareth Thomas graduated from University of Wales College of Medicine (UWCM) in 1989 with a degree in Dentistry. He gained his FDSRCS (Eng) in 1994 and undertook an MScD at UWCM (awarded 1995). He was subsequently awarded an MRC Clinical Training Fellowship to undertake a PhD in keratinocyte biology at University College London (awarded 2000) and completed his clinical training in Head & Neck pathology at University College Hospital London in 2004 (MRCPath 2004, FRCPath 2008). Following the award of a Health Foundation/Royal College of Pathologists Clinician Scientist Fellowship in 2004, he combined research at Bart’s Cancer Institute with clinical practice as a Consultant Pathologist at University College Hospital. In 2007 he was appointed Chair of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology at Bart’s and the London, and moved to Southampton as Professor of Experimental Pathology in 2009.
Awards and recognition
2022, AACR award for the most cited Cancer Research paper 2020/2021 (K Ford et al)
2013, Royal Society of Biology, Elected Fellow
2012, University of Southampton, Faculty of Medicine Postgraduate Research Supervisor Award
2011, British Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons (BAOMS), Members Prize
2008, International Association of Oral Pathologists, Rod Cawson Prize Lecture
2003, The Health Foundation / Royal College of Pathologists: Senior Clinician Scientist Fellowship (5 years).
2002, Royal Society of Medicine: Colyer Prize. Awarded for the best and most original research in dentistry in the preceding 5 years.
2001, Royal Society of Medicine: President's Prize, Section of Pathology.
1999, British Society for Dental Research (BSDR): Senior Colgate Prize.
1998, International Association of Oral Pathologists’ (IAOP) Prize.
1996, Medical Research Council: Clinical Training Fellowship (3yrs).
Twenty-seven PhD students (16 main supervisor; 11 co-supervisor).
Six MD students (1 main supervisor; 5 co-supervisor)
Supervised students/postdocs have been awarded 13 local, 17 national, 6 international research prizes.
Chief Investigator Investigation of the molecular and genetic mechanisms promoting head and neck cancer development and progression, UKCRN 8130; ISRCTN 71276356. This currently the largest current UK study in Head & neck Cancer (>1300 patients recruited). This has resulted in some of the largest UK biomarker studies in this disease (Marsh et al., 2011; Ward et al., 2014) with findings incorporated into recent pathology reporting guidelines for oropharyngeal and oral cancer published by the Royal College of Pathologists. Research from the study has resulted in multiple high impact publications (including Nature, Nature Immunology, Nature Communications, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Journal of Clinical Oncology).
INSERM/ French Alliance for Life Sciences & Health Review Panel, 2022
Chair of Molecular Biology Expert Panel, Research Council of Norway, 2011 → 2013
Co-author Royal College of Pathologists Dataset for histopathological reporting of carcinomas of the oral cavity, 2022
Deputy Chair, Royal College of Pathologists Research Committee, 2021 → …
Co-author Royal College of Pathologists Dataset for histopathological reporting of carcinomas of the oropharynx and nasopharynx, 2021
NIHR Senior Fellowship Panel, 2019 → …
NC3R Crack-IT Panel, 2019 → 2020
Cancer Research UK, Expert Panel Member – Cancer associated fibroblasts, 2019
PHG Foundation, Expert panel Member – Biomarkers in medicine, 2018
Chair of Pathological Society of Great Britain & Ireland Research Subcommittee, 2017 → …
NIHR Career Development, Senior Research and Transitional Research Fellowships Panel, 2017
NC3R & CRUK Expert Panel Member - New technologies to support the 3Rs in cancer research, 2017
NCRI Clinical Trials Pathology Advisory Group (CT-PAG) Steering Committee, 2017
NCRI-CM-Path Initiative. Workstream Lead, 2016 → 2020
Cancer Research UK Experimental Medicine Expert Review Panel, 2015 → 2019
NCRI Molecular Biomarkers Advisory Group, 2015 → 2017
Elected Committee Member of The Pathological Society of Great Britain & Ireland, 2014 → …
ECMC Cellular and Molecular Pathology Network Group Steering Committee
2014 → …
NCRI Biomarkers and Imaging Clinical Studies Group, 2012 → 2015
NCRI Head and Neck Cancer Clinical Studies Group, 2009 → 2012