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Chemotherapy can cause heart failure in cancer survivors. We are interested in the mechanism of chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity, specifically the role of mitochondrial metabolism in the pathophysiology of ensuing heart failure.

Doxorubicin (DOX) causes loss & dysfunction of cardiac mitochondria, leading to heart failure

Research overview

Some chemotherapeutic agents, such as doxorubicin, have severe cardiotoxic side effects, which can lead to congestive heart failure in 5-10% of patients. There are currently no imaging techniques available to detect patients at risk of developing cardiotoxicity before the onset of functional decline and there are no specific cardio-protective treatments. Our research focuses on both the early detection of cardiotoxicity using the novel metabolic imaging technique, hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and the repurposing of existing drugs that target cardiac metabolism as potential cardio-protective therapy. 

Current and future projects

We recently purchased a high resolution respirometer, the Oroboros O2k oxygraphy (sponsored by the Academy of Medical Sciences). This equipment will allow us to assess ex vivo the intricate role of mitochondrial function on cardiotoxicity, underpinning in vivo imaging.

We are now also establishing rodent models of cancer in which to assess new cancer therapies for efficacy and cardiac safety simultaneously. These models will furthermore allow us to test cardioprotective drugs, as we will gain information on both their potential benefit on the heart and additive or detrimental effects on tumour-treatment response.

While doxorubicin is widely used and well known to cause cardiotoxicity, it is not the only anti-cancer drug with serious side effects on the heart. We are interested in developing new models of cardiotoxicity to gain mechanistic insight on the pathophysiology and to develop early imaging markers, using our workflow of in vivo metabolic imaging and ex vivo mitochondrial respirometry.

Joining the lab

We are always on the lookout for motivated and ambitious new team members. Recruitment for DPhil positions is conducted via one of the Oxford University programmes; please note that these programmes normally close in January each year. At the postdoctoral level, we will support applications to fellowship programmes. If you are interested in joining the lab for either a DPhil or Postdoctoral Fellowship, please get in touch (kerstin.timm@pharm.ox.ac.uk). We have some joined research projects with the chemical biology group (Dr Thomas Lanyon-Hogg) and welcome anyone interested in applied chemical biology projects to get in touch.

Our team

Related research themes