Professor Norman J Maitland
Director YCR Cancer Research Unit



1991 - Professor of Molecular Biology, Director YCR Cancer Research Unit Department of Biology, University of York
1989 - 1991 Senior Lecturer in Molecular Pathology  Department of Pathology, University of Bristol
1983 - 1989 New Blood Lecturer in Molecular Pathology Department of Pathology, University of Bristol 
1977 - 1983 Cancer Research Campaign Research Fellow Department of Genetics, University of Edinburgh
1976 - 1977 Robertson Research Fellow Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York
1974 - 1977 PhD in Cancer Studies University of Birmingham
1970 - 1974 BSc Biochemistry (First Class Hons) University of Glasgow           



My research in the YCR Cancer Research Unit is now focused on the development and aetiology of human prostate cancer. Our overall approach has been to separate the tumour (and the corresponding normal tissue) into its cellular components, and to study the role played by different cell types. Of particular interest are the roles played by epithelial stem cells and the hormone-sensitive stromal cells within the tumour and normal prostate. We have compiled gene expression profiles for the various cell types using the Affymetrix platform, and have mined this data for genes and signalling pathways which affect cell fate. Much of our research is now concerned with hypothesis testing, based on the identified genes from this study, using complex multicellular models in vitro and developing xenograft models of the tumour. Clearly fate-altering genes also have therapeutic significance, and in a spin out company (Pro-Cure Therapeutics, founded in 2001) an associated research team are developing novel cancer stem cell treatments, based on the output of the YCR Research. There is a close collaboration between the two groups. As part of an International collaboration, coordinated from York, we are also developing novel biotherapies for prostate cancer, based on targeted and stealthed viral vectors, which allow us to either focus gene expression in specific cells within a tumour, or to engineer viruses to replicate only in tumour cells (oncolytics).


We have shown that heterogeneity within human prostate cancers is due to both carcinogenic changes but also aberrant differentiation, which are two independent events. Current therapies are directed against the majority of cells in the tumour (the most differentiated cells) but do not affect the minority population, which are the tumour initiating cells or cancer stem cells. Thus these cells form a root for post therapy recurrence. By exploiting our gene expression profiling of these cells we have designed potentially novel treatments, which could delay or even prevent tumour recurrence. However we have also shown that the cancer stem cells have an active resistance mechanism to many therapies, such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy. By exploiting a novel ex vivo human blood loop system we have shown that a powerful complement response can eliminate the therapeutic doses of gene therapy vectors, and that co-inoculation with 2 complement inhibitors can block this effect (not seen in mouse models).

Current projects

  • In Vitro Models of Human Prostate Carcinoma including Isolation Characterisation of Stem Cells (Funding body: Yorkshire Cancer Research)
  • The Molecular Basis of Metastasis in Human Prostate Cancer (Funding body: NCRI/Yorkshire Cancer Research)
  • DNA Damage Response in Prostate Cancer Stem Cells (Funding body: Yorkshire Cancer Research)
  • Prostate Research Organisations - Network of Early Stage Training (ProNest), Marie Curie (Funding Body: European Union)
  • Mapping the Epigenetic Lanscape in Prostate Cancer Stem Cells (Funding Body: The Freemasons Grand Charity/Yorkshire Cancer Research)
  • Targeting the PTEN/AKT/m/TOR pathway in human prostate cancer (Funding Body: BBSRC Industrial CASE Studentship with Astra Zeneca)

Research group(s)

Post doctoral fellow Dr Alastair Droop Bioinformatic analysis of cancer gene expression datasets
Post doctoral fellow Dr Euan Polson Control of fusion gene expression in prostate cancer stem cells
Post doctoral fellow Dr Davide Pellacani Epigenetic control of geneexpression in prostate cancer stem cells
Post doctoral fellow Dr Anne Collins Stem cell isolation and function in both normal and malignant human prostate
Post doctoral fellow Mr Paul Berry Stromal cells from normal and malignant prostate
Post doctoral fellow Dr Fiona Frame Using a lentivirus vector system to mark and track prostate cancer stem cells
Research Technician Samantha Hansford Chief Technician overseeing the laboratory with respect to laboratory services, laboratory equipment and its maintenance
Research Technician Hannah Walker Full-time technician
Research Technician Katy Hyde Part time cell culture technician
Research Technician Richard Bingham Part-time Laboratory Assistant
PA to Professor Maitland
(on maternity leave)
Michelle Scaife Also looks after the administrative needs of the Unit
 PA to Professor Maitland Cressida Schofield  Also looks after the administrative needs of the Unit
Student Jayant Rane Control of gene expression in prostate cancer stem cells
Student Sandra Klein (with Sheffield) DNA damage response of prostate cancer stem cells to chemical carcinogens
Student Emma Oldridge Epigenetic control of gene expression in prostate cancer stem cells
Student Paula Kroon  JAK-STAT signalling in prostate cancer stem cells
Student Dominika Butler PTEN/Akt signalling in prostate
Student Guillermo Rivera Targeted gene therapy for prostate cancer

Contact details

Prof. Norman J Maitland
Director YCR Cancer Research Unit
Department of Biology (Area 13)
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328700