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MRC Cancer Unit


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Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald

Interim Director, MRC Cancer Unit

Biography | Pubmed


Gastro-Oesophageal Cancers

Our work focuses on the early detection and treatment of cancer of the oesophagus. Oesophageal cancers are the 8th most common cancer worldwide and the 6th most common cause of cancer death with only 15% surviving 5 years. The two main subtypes of oesophageal cancer: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) have a remarkably improved survival when diagnosed at an early stage. 


Our main research aims are to:

  • Understand the underlying clinical, genetic and cell environmental factors that lead to the conversion of a low-risk pre-malignant state into invasive cancer.

  • Find new diagnostic tools that will identify those patients who are at an increased risk of developing cancer.

  • Improve the molecular characterisation of oesophageal adenocarcinoma and identify novel approaches for tumour classification, monitoring and therapy.


We work as a highly diverse multi-disciplinary team which includes nurses, clinicians, statisticians, laboratory scientists, computational biologists, pathologists, data managers and administrators. We have a pragmatic approach to research which comes from a working knowledge of the clinical disease with the aim of translating our research findings into clinical practice.



Rebecca is interested in hearing from anyone with a clinical or scientific background interested in joining the laboratory or clinical infrastructure team at any time.

For  currently available positions please view our Recruitment page.

Click here to contact Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald by email.


Selected Publications:

Molecular phenotyping reveals the identity of Barrett’s esophagus and its malignant transition.

Karol Nowicki-Osuch, Lizhe Zhuang, Sriganesh Jammula, Christopher W. Bleaney, Krishnaa T. Mahbubani, Ginny Devonshire, Annalise Katz-Summercorn, Nils Eling, Anna Wilbrey-Clark, Elo Madissoon, John Gamble, Massimiliano Di Pietro, Maria O’Donovan, Kerstin B. Meyer, Kourosh Saeb-Parsy, Andrew D. Sharrocks, Sarah A. Teichmann, John C. Marioni, Rebecca C. Fitzgerald



Full text:

Genomic evidence supports a clonal diaspora model for metastases of esophageal adenocarcinoma. Ayesha Noorani, Xiaodun Li, Martin Goddard, Jason Crawte, Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Maria Secrier, Matthew D. Eldridge, Lawrence Bower, Jamie Weaver, Pierre Lao-Sirieix, Inigo Martincorena, Irene Debiram-Beecham, Nicola Grehan, Shona MacRae, Shalini Malhotra, Ahmad Miremadi, Tabitha Thomas, Sarah Galbraith, Lorraine Petersen, Stephen D. Preston, David Gilligan, Andrew Hindmarsh, Richard H. Hardwick, Michael R. Stratton, David C. Wedge & Rebecca C. Fitzgerald. Nature Genetics (2020)

The landscape of selection in 551 esophageal adenocarcinomas defines genomic biomarkers for the clinic. Frankell AM, Jammula S, Li X, Contino G, Killcoyne S, Abbas S, Perner J, Bower L, Devonshire G, Ococks E, Grehan N, Mok J, O'Donovan M, MacRae S, Eldridge MD, Tavaré S; Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification (OCCAMS) Consortium, Fitzgerald RC.  Nat Genet. 2019 Feb 4. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0331-5. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30718927

Selection and Application of Tissue microRNAs for Nonendoscopic Diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus. Gastroenterology. Li X, Kleeman S, Coburn SB, Fumagalli C, Perner J, Jammula S, Pfeiffer RM, Orzolek L, Hao H, Taylor PR, Miremadi A, Galeano-Dalmau N, Lao-Sirieix P, Tennyson M, MacRae S, Cook MB, Fitzgerald RC. 2018 Sep;155(3):771-783.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.05.050. Epub 2018 Jun 12. PubMed PMID: 29906417; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6120784.

Identification of Prognostic Phenotypes of Esophageal Adenocarcinoma in Two
Independent Cohorts. Gastroenterology.
Sawas T, Killcoyne S, Iyer PG, Wang KK, Smyrk TC, Kisiel JB, Qin Y, Ahlquist DA, Rustgi AK, Costa RJ, Gerstung M, Fitzgerald RC, Katzka DA; OCCAMS Consortium. 2018 Aug 27. pii: S0016-5085(18)34923-0. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.08.036. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30165050.

Organoid cultures recapitulate esophagealadenocarcinoma heterogeneity providing a model for clonality studies and precision therapeutics. Li X, Francies HE, Secrier M, Perner J, Miremadi A, Galeano-Dalmau N, Barendt  WJ, Letchford L, Leyden GM, Goffin EK, Barthorpe A, Lightfoot H, Chen E, Gilbert  J, Noorani A, Devonshire G, Bower L, Grantham A, MacRae S, Grehan N, Wedge DC, Fitzgerald RC, Garnett MJ. Nat Commun. 2018 Jul 30;9(1):2983. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05190-9. PubMed PMID: 30061675; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6065407.

Methylation panel is a diagnostic biomarker for Barrett's oesophagus in endoscopic biopsies and non-endoscopic cytology specimens. Chettouh H, Mowforth O, Galeano-Dalmau N, Bezawada N, Ross-Innes C, MacRae S, Debiram-Beecham I, O'Donovan M, Fitzgerald RC.  Gut. 2018 Nov;67(11):1942-1949. doi:
10.1136/gutjnl-2017-314026. Epub 2017 Oct 30. PubMed PMID: 29084829; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6176521.

Application of a multi-gene next-generation sequencing panel to a non-invasive oesophageal cell-sampling device to diagnose dysplastic Barrett's oesophagus. Katz-Summercorn A, Anand S, Ingledew S, Huang Y, Roberts T, Galeano-Dalmau N, O'Donovan M, Liu H, Fitzgerald RC. J Pathol Clin Res. 2017 Aug 24;3(4):258-267. doi: 10.1002/cjp2.80. eCollection 2017 Oct. PubMed PMID: 29085666; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5653927.

Impact of mutations in Toll-like receptor pathway genes on esophageal carcinogenesis. Fels Elliott DR, Perner J, Li X, Symmons MF, Verstak B, Eldridge M, Bower L, O'Donovan M, Gay NJ; OCCAMS Consortium, Fitzgerald RC.
PLoS Genet. 2017 May 22;13(5):e1006808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006808. eCollection 2017 May. PubMed PMID: 28531216; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5460900.

A comparative analysis of whole genome sequencing of oesophageal adenocarcinoma pre- and post-chemotherapy. Noorani A, Bornschein J, Lynch AG, Secrier M, Achilleos A, Eldridge M, Bower L, Weaver JMJ, Crawte J, Ong CA, Shannon N, MacRae S, Grehan N, Nutzinger B, O'Donovan M, Hardwick R, Tavaré S, Fitzgerald RC; Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification (OCCAMS) Consortium., Genome Res. 2017 May 2. doi: 10.1101/gr.214296.116. [Epub ahead of print] PMID:28465312

Mutational signatures in esophageal adenocarcinoma define etiologically distinct subgroups with therapeutic relevance. Secrier M, Li X, de Silva N, Eldridge MD, Contino G, Bornschein J, MacRae S, Grehan N, O'Donovan M, Miremadi A, Yang TP, Bower L, Chettouh H, Crawte J, Galeano-Dalmau N, Grabowska A, Saunders J, Underwood T, Waddell N, Barbour AP, Nutzinger B, Achilleos A, Edwards PA, Lynch AG, Tavaré S, Fitzgerald RC; Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification (OCCAMS) Consortium..Nat Genet. 2016 Oct;48(10):1131-41. doi: 10.1038/ng.3659. Epub 2016 Sep 5. PMID:27595477

Whole-genome sequencing of nine esophageal adenocarcinoma cell lines. Contino G, Eldridge MD, Secrier M, Bower L, Fels Elliott R, Weaver J, Lynch AG, Edwards PA, Fitzgerald RC. F1000Res. 2016 Jun 10;5:1336. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.7033.1. eCollection 2016. PMID:27594985

A non-endoscopic device to sample the oesophageal microbiota: a case-control study. Elliott DR, Walker AW, O'Donovan M, Parkhill J, Fitzgerald RC. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 Jan;2(1):32-42. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(16)30086-3. Epub 2016 Nov 12. PMID:28404012

Risk stratification of Barrett's oesophagus using a non-endoscopic sampling method coupled with a biomarker panel: a cohort study. Ross-Innes CS, Chettouh H, Achilleos A, Galeano-Dalmau N, Debiram-Beecham I, MacRae S, Fessas P, Walker E, Varghese S, Evan T, Lao-Sirieix PS, O'Donovan M, Malhotra S, Novelli M, Disep B, Kaye PV, Lovat LB, Haidry R, Griffin M, Ragunath K, Bhandari P, Haycock A, Morris D, Attwood S, Dhar A, Rees C, Rutter MD, Ostler R, Aigret B, Sasieni PD, Fitzgerald RC; BEST2 study group.. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 Jan;2(1):23-31. doi: 10.1016/S2468-1253(16)30118-2. Epub 2016 Nov 11. PMID:28404010

Analysis of dysplasia in patients with Barrett's esophagus based on expression pattern of 90 genes. Varghese S, Newton R, Ross-Innes CS, Lao-Sirieix P, Krishnadath KK, O'Donovan M, Novelli M, Wernisch L, Bergman J, Fitzgerald RC. Gastroenterology. 2015 Nov;149(6):1511-1518.e5. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.07.053. Epub 2015 Aug 3. PMID:26248086

Whole-genome sequencing provides new insights into the clonal architecture of Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Ross-Innes CS, Becq J, Warren A, Cheetham RK, Northen H, O'Donovan M, Malhotra S, di Pietro M, Ivakhno S, He M, Weaver JM, Lynch AG, Kingsbury Z, Ross M, Humphray S, Bentley D, Fitzgerald RC; Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification (OCCAMS) Study Group.; Oesophageal Cancer Clinical and Molecular Stratification OCCAMS Study Group.. Nat Genet. 2015 Sep;47(9):1038-46. doi: 10.1038/ng.3357. Epub 2015 Jul 20. PMID:26192915

Evaluation of a minimally invasive cell sampling device coupled with assessment of trefoil factor 3 expression for diagnosing Barrett's esophagus: a multi-center case-control study. Ross-Innes CS, Debiram-Beecham I, O'Donovan M, Walker E, Varghese S, Lao-Sirieix P, Lovat L, Griffin M, Ragunath K, Haidry R, Sami SS, Kaye P, Novelli M, Disep B, Ostler R, Aigret B, North BV, Bhandari P, Haycock A, Morris D, Attwood S, Dhar A, Rees C, Rutter MD, Sasieni PD, Fitzgerald RC; BEST2 Study Group.. PLoS Med. 2015 Jan 29;12(1):e1001780. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001780. eCollection 2015 Jan. PMID:25634542

Ordering of mutations in preinvasive disease stages of esophageal carcinogenesis. Weaver JM, Ross-Innes CS, Shannon N, Lynch AG, Forshew T, Barbera M, Murtaza M, Ong CA, Lao-Sirieix P, Dunning MJ, Smith L, Smith ML, Anderson CL, Carvalho B, O'Donovan M, Underwood TJ, May AP, Grehan N, Hardwick R, Davies J, Oloumi A, Aparicio S, Caldas C, Eldridge MD, Edwards PA, Rosenfeld N, Tavaré S, Fitzgerald RC; OCCAMS Consortium..Nat Genet. 2014 Aug;46(8):837-43. doi: 10.1038/ng.3013. Epub 2014 Jun 22. PMID:24952744

 The human squamous oesophagus has widespread capacity for clonal expansion from cells at diverse stages of differentiation. Barbera M, di Pietro M, Walker E, Brierley C, MacRae S, Simons BD, Jones PH, Stingl J, Fitzgerald RC. Gut. 2015 Jan;64(1):11-9. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306171. Epub 2014 Feb 26. PMID:24572143

A systematic approach to therapeutic target selection in oesophago-gastric cancer. Paterson AL, Shannon NB, Lao-Sirieix P, Ong CA, Peters CJ, O'Donovan M, Fitzgerald RC. Gut. 2013 Oct;62(10):1415-24. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2012-302039. Epub 2012 Jul 6. PMID:22773546

Molecular imaging using fluorescent lectins permits rapid endoscopic identification of dysplasia in Barrett's esophagus. Bird-Lieberman EL, Neves AA, Lao-Sirieix P, O'Donovan M, Novelli M, Lovat LB, Eng WS, Mahal LK, Brindle KM, Fitzgerald RC. Nat Med. 2012 Jan 15;18(2):315-21. doi: 10.1038/nm.2616. PMID:22245781