Gareth Inman

+44 (0)1382 383366


Gareth Inman graduated with first class honours from The University of York. He carried out his PhD studies on Epstein Barr virus in Professor Paul Farrell’s laboratory in the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in St Mary’s Hospital, London, before joining Professor Ed Ziff’s laboratory as an HHMI postdoctoral fellow in New York. Gareth then returned to the Ludwig Institute as a Wellcome Trust postdoctoral fellow and studied TGF? signalling in human B cells in Professor Martin Allday’s lab. He then moved to Dr Caroline Hill’s lab at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund to study TGF? signalling dynamics. Gareth set up his own lab investigating TGF? signalling in cancer at The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow in 2003 following his award of the first AICR International Cancer Fellowship. Gareth took up his readership in Dundee in 2010. Work in his lab is supported by the AICR, Cancer Research UK, Tenovus Scotland, The Anonymous Trust and the Ninewells Cancer Campaign.


The transforming growth factor beta (TGF?) superfamily comprises approximately forty related dimeric polypeptide cytokines including the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), the growth and differentiation factors (GDFs), activin, nodal and the TGF?s (TGF?1, TGF?2, TGF?3). These growth factors play fundamental roles during mammalian development and act as homeostatic factors in adult life regulating tissue repair, wound healing and the immune response. As well as having vital normal physiological functions these factors play pivotal roles in disease pathogenesis and the emerging importance of TGF? and BMP signalling in cancer biology is the primary focus of our studies. Paradoxically TGF? can act as both a tumour suppressor and a tumour promoter. The tumour suppressor activities of TGF? are ascribed to its ability to act as a potent negative regulator of cell proliferation and survival. As tumours progress they frequently avoid the tumour suppressive activities of TGF? and switch their response to this cytokine and utilise it as a promoter of motility, survival, invasion, vascularisation, metastasis and immunosuppression. We have three fundamental questions that we are trying to answer in the laboratory using both in vitro cell biological and in vivo techniques coupled with analysis of primary patient tumour material:-

1) How do TGF?/BMP act as tumour suppressors and how do tumour cells avoid this?

2) How do TGF?/BMP act on tumour cells to promote cancer progression?

3) When and where do these events occur?

Our ultimate goals are to develop therapeutics that selectively target the pro-oncogenic actions of these cytokines and to identify patient selection criteria for their deployment.

Mechanisms of TGF?/BMP mediated tumour suppression

The tumour suppressor activities of TGF? are attributed to its ability to act as a potent cytostatic factor and inducer of apoptosis. We are studying TGF? signalling in both normal primary human B cells and in model Burkitt’s Lymphoma (BL) cell lines. Our detailed molecular analyses in both normal germinal centre B cells and BL cell lines has revealed that TGF? signalling acts as a central regulator of centroblastic B cell apoptosis (Spender et al., 2009) via co-ordinated regulation of the BCL2 family of cell death and survival proteins. Based upon these studies and those of others we are investigating the potential of targeting survival pathway signalling as a therapeutic target in B cell malignancies (Spender and Inman, 2009a) and have discovered that dual targeting of the pro-survival BCL2 family and the PI3K/mTOR pathway may be a valuable approach for lymphoma management (Spender and Inman, 2012). We have also revealed novel pathways of cytostasis in B cells (Spender and Inman, 2009b).

Our current studies are focusing on how TGF? may act as a tumour suppressor in skin stem cells and how BMP9 may negatively regulate ovarian cancer cell proliferation in a context dependent fashion.

Switching TGF? from a tumour suppressor to a tumour promoter.

The tumour cell autonomous switch of TGF? responses from inhibition of proliferation and survival to promotion of growth, motility and invasion must involve genetic and epigenetic changes in the tumour cell genome (Inman, 2011). We have identified the first epigenetic change capable of simulataneously abrogating the cytostatic effects of TGF? whilst enabling TGF? to promote proliferation and motility (Hannigan et al., 2010). We have found that promoter methylation of the DAB2 gene in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) correlates with the development of metastatic disease and a poor patient prognosis. In HNSCC cell lines expression levels of this gene dictate the TGF? response. Re-expression of this gene restores TGF? mediated growth arrest whilst knockdown of this gene abrogates this response. We have also found that this gene is downregulated in breast cancer and may predict site specific metastasis. We are now determining the role of this gene during tumourigenesis in-vivo using genetic and xenograft approaches. Excitingly, using comparative microarray analysis we believe we have identified TGF? driven pro-proliferative and pro-invasion gene signatures. We are now undertaking a detailed mechansistic and clinical evaluation of the role and regulation of these genes which we hope will provide important new insight into mechanisms of tumour progression in both SCC and breast cancer.

BMP signalling in cancer.

Recent mutation and expression studies have implicated aberrant BMP signalling as potentially playing both tumour suppressive and tumour promotive roles in human malignancy. We have developed a sensitive bioassay for measuring multiple BMPs present in biological fluids to assess autocrine production of these cytokines by tumour cell lines and potentially their presence in patient serum samples (Herrera and Inman, 2009). Strickingly we have used this assay to determine that both bovine and human serum contain physiologically relevant concentrations of BMPs, an observation that not only indicates that these factors circulate but which may also have profound implications for cell culture experiments.

BMPs act as central regulators of ovarian physiology and may be involved in ovarian cancer development. We have characterised the expression of BMP receptors and Smads in immortalised ovarian surface epithelial cells (IOSE) and a panel of ovarian cancer cell lines. Using siRNA, ligand trap, inhibitor and ligand stimulation approaches we have found that BMP9 acts as a proliferative factor for IOSE and ovarian cancer cell lines (Figure 1B), signalling predominantly via an ALK2/Smad1/Smad4 pathway (Herrera et al., 2009). Using our bioassay we have found that some ovarian cancer cell lines have gained autocrine BMP9 signalling and we have gone on to show that this is required for proliferation. Furthermore, using immunohistochemistry analysis of an ovarian cancer tissue microarray we have found that 25% of epithelial ovarian cancers express BMP9 whereas normal human OSE specimens do not. We are now seeking to understand how and when BMP9 drives cancer cell proliferation and to evaluate the potential of targeting ALK2 as a cancer therapeutic.

PhD supervision

Peter Walsh 2011-2014

Alana Burns 2012-2015

Aidan Rose (clinical Fellow) 2012-2015

Group members

  • Dr. Jasbani Dayal
  • Dr. Barry Coull
  • Dr. Dominic Grussu
  • Mr. Richard Taylor
  • Ms Lauren Strathearn
  • Ms. Alice Willison
  • Mr. Kismet Hossain-Ibrahim

Group alumni

Dr Blanca Herrera: Assistant Professor, Departamento de Bioquimica y Biologia Molecular, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.

Dr G. John Ferguson: Babraham Institute, Cambridge, UK

Dr Darren O'Brien: Department of Haematology, Western General Infirmary, Edinburgh, UK

Dr Adele Hannigan: EnGeneIC Cancer Therapeutics, Sydney, Australia

Dr Yvonne Fleming: Teacher training, Glasgow, UK


Lectures and conferences

Lectures at international meetings:

FASEB Summer Research Conference, The TGF? superfamily: Signaling in Development and Disease, Steam Boat Springs, USA, 2013

Tenovus Symposium, Glasgow, 2012.

A*STAR symposium, Singapore, 2012.

FASEB Summer Research Conference, The TGF? superfamily: Signaling in Development and Disease, Lucca, Italy, 2011

8th International BMP congress, Leuven, Belgium, 2010.

Beatson International Cancer Conference, Glasgow, 2010.

BMP International workshop, Berlin, 2009.

Beatson International Cancer Conference, Glasgow, UK, 2009.

FASEB summer research conference. TGF? Superfamily: Signaling in Development and Disease, Arizona, USA, 2009.

Keystone Symposia. TGF? family in homeostasis and Disease, Santa Fe, NM, USA, 2008.

FASEB summer research conference: TGF? superfamily: signaling and development. Tuscon, Arizona, USA, 2007.

Beatson International Cancer Conference. Glasgow, UK, 2007.

TGF? and Cancer workshop, The Lighthouse, Glasgow, UK, 2006.

Scottish Transcription Meeting. University of Glasgow, UK, 2005.

Xth International Epstein-Barr-Virus Meeting, Yale, USA 2000.

LICR 25th Anniversary Symposium, Zurich, Switzerland, 1997.


External invited seminars.

St Bartholomew's Cancer Centre, London, 2013

CLS Research Sympsosium, University of Dundee, Crieff, 2013

Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, London, 2012

UCL Cancer Institute, London, 2012

Cancer Research Center, Lyon, France, 2012

Blizzard Institute, Queen Mary’s University of London, 2012

Belfast Cancer Centre/Queens Medical Centre, Belfast, 2011.

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, University of Oxford, 2011.

University of Southampton, 2011.

CRUK Senior Fellows’ meeting, Manchester, 2010.

University of Manchester, 2010.

Department of Pharmacology, University of Marburg, Germany, 2010.

University Of Bristol, 2009.

University of Dundee, 2009.

The Institute of Cancer Research, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, 2009.

Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, 2009.

Genzyme Corp., Boston, MA, USA, 2008.

CRUK Institute for Cancer for Cancer Studies, Birmingham University, 2007.

Astra Zeneca, Alderley Park, UK, 2007.

Cancer Research UK Molecular Oncology Unit, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, 2007.

University of East Anglia, UK, 2005

Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, 2005.

Institute of Comparative Medicine University of Glasgow Veterinary School, UK, 2004.

Department of Molecular Pharmacology, University of Heidelberg, Germany, 2003.

Beatson Institute for Cancer Research, Glasgow, Scotland, 2002.

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research seminar series, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London 2002.

Marie Curie Research Institute, Oxted, Surrey, 2002.

Almroth-Wright lecture series, St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, London, 2000.

St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, 1999.

Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, 1999.


I am actively involved is aspects of the Cancer Biology MRes programme and supervise masters and PhD students and take part in the SSC Medical student undergraduate programme.