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Department of Oncology



Richard Gilbertson trained as a pediatric oncologist in the UK where he earned his MBBS and PhD degrees, becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1995. He moved to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, USA in 2000 where he served as the Co-Leader of the Neurobiology and Brain Tumor Program and founding Director of the Molecular Clinical Trials Core before being appointed as the Comprehensive Cancer Center Director, Executive Vice President, and Lillian R Cannon Endowed Chair in 2011. In 2014 he was appointed as the Scientific Director of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In August 2015, he moved back home to England where he now serves as the Li Ka-shing Chair of Oncology, Head of Department of Oncology and Director of the CRUK Cambridge Centre at the University of Cambridge. His laboratory research is focused on understanding the link between normal development and the origins of cancer, particularly brain tumours.


Cellular and molecular origins of cancer

The principal aim of my research is to reduce the morbidity and mortality of patients with cancer through improved understanding of tumour biology. With a particular focus on children’s brain tumours, we are working to understand the cellular and molecular origins of cancers and the pathways that drive them. We hope to achieve this goal by:

  • Conducting extensive genomic analyses of brain tumours to identify cancer causing genetic abnormalities.
  • Integrating studies of genetic and cell signal alterations in cancers with studies of normal progenitor cells to determine the cellular and molecular origins of tumours.
  • Understanding the impact of signalling pathways on normal stem cell biology and tissue development
  • Translating knowledge of tumour biology into effective new cancer cures through pre-clinical and early clinical trials of molecular targeted therapies.


Key publications: 
  1. Nimmervoll B, Boulos N, Bianski B, Dapper J, DeCuypere M, Shelat A, Terranova S, Gilbertson H, Gajjar A, Patel Y, Freeman B, Onar-Thomas A, Steward C, Roussel M, Guy R.K, Merchant T, Calabrese C, Wright K, Gilbertson RJ. A preclinical multidisciplinary brain tumour board. Under Review in Clinical Cancer Research. Clinical Cancer Research 24(7):1654-1666, 2018.
  2. Zhu L, Poppleton H, Finkelstein D, Shi L, Wang M, López Terrada D, Wang K, Utley S, Pounds S, Neale G, Ellison DW, Onar-Thomas A, Gilbertson RJ. Multi-organ mapping of cancer risk. Cell 166(5):1132-1146, 2016.
  3. Valentin-Vega YA, Wang YD, Parker M, Patmore DM, Kanagaraj A, Moore J, Rusch M, Finkelstein D, Ellison DW, Gilbertson RJ, Zhang J, Kim HJ, Taylor JP. Cancer-associated DDX3X mutations drive stress granule assembly and impair global translation. Scientific Report16;6:25996, 2016.
  4. Phoenix TN, Patmore DM, Boulos N, Boop S, Jacus MO, Patel YT, Goumnerova L, Perreault S, Wadhwa E, Cho YJ, Roussel MF, Stewart CF, Gilbertson, RJ. Medulloblastoma genotype dictates blood brain barrier phenotype. Cancer Cell 29(4):508-5222016.
  5. Mohankumar M, Currle DS, White E, Boulos N, Dapper J, Eden C, Nimmervoll B, Thiruvenkatam R, Connelly M, Kranenburg TA, Neale G, Olsen S, Wang Y-D, Finkelstein D, Wright K, Gupta K, Ellison DW, Onar-Thomas A, Gilbertson RJ. An in vivo screen identifies ependymoma oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Nature Genetics 2015 (8):878-87.
  6. Tong Y, Marino D, Nimmervoll B, Gupta K, Wang Y-D, Finkelstein D, Dalton J, Ellison DW, Ma X, Malkin D, Gilbertson RJ. Cross-species genomics identifies TAF12, NFYC and RAD54L as novel choroid plexus carcinoma oncogenes. Cancer Cell 27:712-727, 2015.
  7. Parker M, Mohankumar KM, Punchihewa C, Weinlich R, Dalton JD, Li Y, Lee R, Tatevossian RG, Phoenix TN, Thiruvenkatam R, White E, Tang B, Orisme W, Gupta K, Rusch M, Chen X, Li X, Nagahawhatte P, Hedlund E, Finkelstein D, Wu G, Shurtleff S, Easton J, Boggs K, Yergeau D, Vadodaria B, Mulder HL, Becksford J, Gupta P, Huether R, Ma J, Song G, Gajjar A, Merchant T, Boop F, Smith AA, Ding L, Lu C, Ochoa K, Zhao D, Fulton RS, Fulton LL,. Mardis ER, Wilson RK, Downing JR, Green DR, Zhang J, Ellison DW, Gilbertson RJ. C11orf95-RELA fusions drive oncogenic NF-κB signaling in ependymoma. Nature506(7489):451-5, 2014.
  8. Robinson G, Parker M, Kranenburg TA, Lu C, Chen X, Ding L, Phoenix TN, Hedlund E, Wei L, Zhu X, Chalhoub N, Baker SJ, Huether R, Kriwacki R, Curley N, Thiruvenkatam R, Wang J, Wu G, Rusch M, Hong X, Beckford J, Gupta P, Ma J, Easton J, Vadodaria B, Onar-Thomas A, Lin T, Li S, Pounds S, Paugh S, Zhao D, Kawauchi D, Roussel MF, Finkelstein D, Ellison DW, Lau CC, Bouffet E, Hassall T, Gururangan S, Cohn R, Fulton RS, Fulton LL, Dooling DJ, Ochoa K, Gajjar A, Mardis ER, Wilson RK, Downing JR, Zhang J, Gilbertson RJ. Novel mutations target distinct subgroups of medulloblastoma. Nature 488:43-48, 2012.
  9. Kawauchi D, Robinson G, Uziel T, Gibson P, Rehg J, Gao C, Finkelstein D, Qu C, Pounds S, Ellison DW, Gilbertson RJ, Roussel MF. A mouse model of the most aggressive subgroup of human medulloblastoma. Cancer Cell 21:168-80, 2012.
  10. Atkinson JM, Shelat AA, Carcaboso AM, Kranenburg TA, Arnold A, Wright KD, Johnson RA, Poppleton H, Mohankumar KM, Feau C, Phoenix T, Gibson P, Zhu L, Tong Y, Eden C, Ellison DW, Priebe W, Koul D, Yung WKA, Gajjar A, Stewart CF, Guy RK, Gilbertson RJ. An integrated in vitro and in vivo high throughput screen identifies treatment leads for ependymoma. Cancer Cell 20:384-99, 2011.
  11. Gilbertson RJ. Mapping Cancer Origins. Cell 145 :25-9, 2011.
  12. Gibson P, Tong, Y, Robinson G, Thompson MC, Currle DS, Eden C, Kranenburg TA, Hogg T, Poppleton H, Martin J, Finkelstein D, Pounds S, Weiss A, Patay Z, Scoggins M, Ogg R, Pei Y, Yang Z-J, Brun S, Lee Y, Zindy F, Lindsey JC, Taketo MM, Boop FA, Sanford RA, Gajjar A, Clifford SC, Roussel MF, McKinnon PJ, Gutmann DH, Ellison DW, Wechsler-Reya R, Gilbertson RJ. Subtypes of medulloblastoma have distinct developmental origins. Nature 468:1095-9. 2010.
  13. Johnson RA, Wright KD, Poppleton H, Mohankumar KM, Finkelstein DF, Pounds SB, Rand V, Leary SE, White E, Eden C, Hogg T, Northcott P, Mack S, Neale G, Wang M, Coyle B, Atkinson J, DeWire M, Kranenburg TA, Gillespie Y, Allen JC, Merchant T, Boop FA, Sanford RA, Gajjar A, Ellison DW, Taylor MD, Grundy RG, Gilbertson RJ. Cross-species genomics matches driver mutations and cell compartments to model ependymoma. Nature 466: 632–636, 2010.
  14. Zhu L, Gibson P, Currle DS, Tong Y, Richardson RJ, Bayazitov IT, Poppleton H, Zakharenko S, Ellison DW, Gilbertson RJ. Prominin 1 marks intestinal stem cells that are susceptible to neoplastic transformation. Nature 457:603-7, 2009.
  15. Calabrese C, Poppleton H, Kocak M, Hogg TL, Fuller C, Hamner B, Oh EY, Gaber W, Finklestein D, Allen M, Frank A, Bayazitov IT, Zakharenko SS, Gajjar A, Davidoff A, Gilbertson RJ. A Perivascular niche for brain tumor stem cells. Cancer Cell 11:69-82, 2007.
  16. Taylor MD, Poppleton H, Fuller C, Su X, Liu Y, Jensen P, Magdelano S, Dalton J, Board J, MacDonald T, Rutka J, Guha A, Gajjar A, Curran T, Gilbertson RJ. Radial Glia cells are candidate stem cells of ependymoma. Cancer Cell 8:323-335, 2005.
Li Ka Shing Chair and Head of Department of Oncology
Director of CRUK Cambridge Centre
Professor Richard  Gilbertson

Contact Details

Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
University of Cambridge
Li Ka Shing Centre
Box 278, Cambridge Biomedical Campus
Robinson Way
PA: Helen Anderson; Email:
+44 (0)1223 769838
Takes PhD students
Not available for consultancy