Sophia Karagiannis

Sophia Karagiannis


  • Professor of Translational Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, Dermatology
    • 5022

    Personal profile

    Research interests

    Monoclonal antibodies are an important therapeutic modality in the clinical management of cancers. Our research interests are focused on discovery and evaluation of monoclonal antibodies for clinically-challenging solid tumours such as melanoma, ovarian and breast carcinomas. We have developed novel approaches aimed at understanding and activating immune responses to melanoma with particular focus on B cell responses and the antibodies they produce.  Our approach encompasses: a) elucidating antibody mechanisms of action in disease-relevant models; b) dissecting humoral resposnes and mechanisms that may impair anti-tumour immunity and cytotoxic antibodies from eradicating tumours in patients; c) designing antibodies with potent effector functions. We are able to discover and evaluate novel antibodies for tumour specificity, we examine their ability and mechanisms by which they target and kill tumour cells, and we evaluate their potential efficacy as diagnostic and/or therapeutic agents.

    Another major focus relates to evaluation of the impact of antibody class on the therapeutic efficacy of tumour antigen-specific antibodies. We are conducting studies directly comparing the efficacy and mechanisms of action of two different classes of antibodies, IgG and IgE. Our research with Prof. Hannah Gould, Dr. Andrew Beavil and others suggests that compared to IgG, aspects of IgE biology are potentially better suited to cancer therapy, including a higher binding affinity for Fc receptors, and the ability to activate different populations of potent effector cells normally present in tumour tissues to kill tumour cells. A number of subsequent studies provide an insight into the diversity of mechanisms different classes of antibodies employ to activate immune effector cells to target and kill tumours.

    Our most advanced agent, MOv18 IgE, raised against the α isoform of Folate Receptor, a tumour-associated antigen expressed almost exclusively in tissue cancers such as those of the ovary, breast cancers has now completed clinical testing. We are conducting safety, efficacy and mechanism of action (with J Spicer, HJ Gould, P Blower, D Josephs) as well as biodistribution studies and evaluation of this and other antibodies (with P Blower and J Spicer) and for cancer therapy (with J Spicer, H Gould, D Josephs). These studies are pivotal in expediting the path of this highly promising therapeutic class from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside.


    Grant Support:

    Our research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, the CR UK New Agents Committee, Breast Cancer Now, Breast Cancer Now, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, the Medical Research Council, the CR UK/EPSRC/MRC/NIHR KCL/UCL Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre and the British Skin Foundation.


    Research Group Members:

    Dr Rebecca Adams (MRC Clinical Research Fellow/Dermatology Registrar)

    Dr Heather Bax (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)

    Dr Alicia Chenoweth (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Dr Anthony Cheung (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Dr Melanie Grandits (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Dr Lais C G F Palhares (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Ms Lucy Booth (MRC PhD Student)

    Mr Jitesh Chauhan (PhD Student)

    Benjamina Esapa (BBSRC CASE PhD student)

    Yi Liu (PhD Student)

    Ms Alexandra McCraw (MRC iCASE PhD Student)

    Mr Roman Laddach (BRC PhD Student)

    Mr Gabriel Osborn (MRC PhD Student)

    Pablo Romero Clavijo (CRUK PhD Student)

    Zena Willsmore (CRUK Clinical Research Fellow)


    Past Group members:

    Dr Debra H Josephs (Clinical Lecturer, Oncology)

    Dr Chara Stavraka (Clinical Lecturer, Oncology)

    Ms Ricarda Melina Hoffmann (PhD Student)

    Dr Jacobo López-Abente (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Ms Mano Nakamura (PhD Student)

    Mr Robert Harris (CRUK PhD Student)

    Dr Heng Sheng Sow (Postdoctoral Research Assistant)

    Dr Silvia Crescioli (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Ms Kristina Ilieva (Research Technician, PhD Student P/T)

    Dr Silvia Mele (Postdoctoral Research Associate)

    Dr Giulia Chiaruttini (Postdoctoral Research Assistant)

    Dr Isabel Correa (BRC Senior Research Technician)

    Dr Amy E Gilbert (PhD Student)

    Dr Giulia Pellizzari (Health Schools PhD Student)

    Dr Matthew Fittall (Academic Clinical Fellow, Oncology)

    Dr Louise Saul (Postdoctoral Research Associate, honorary)

    Dr Panagiotis Karagiannis (Clinical Research Associate, honorary)

    Ms Helen Cambrook (Research Assistant)

    Biographical details

    Translational cancer immunologist specialising in antibody therapies for melanoma, ovarian and breast carcinomas. Gained BA and MS degrees at Rutgers University, USA, having received scholarship awards and a teaching assistantship (1987, 1991). PhD was awarded at King’s College London in Biochemistry under SERC and SmithKline Beecham-funded scholarships (1995). Subsequently developed immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer and inflammatory diseases in academic and biotechnology environments in London and Cambridge as a postdoctoral associate and scientific investigator and formed research group as a NIHR/BRC Senior Research Fellow in 2007. The Karagiannis team is presently focused on dissecting humoral immunity in cancer and elucidating tumour-targeting and immune effector activating mechanisms of IgE and IgG antibodies.

    Co-founded and co-chairs the International Task Force on AllergoOncology and has pioneered IgE therapeutics for solid tumours. Her research and development initiative on the first IgE class antibody for cancer therapy is conducted in close collaboration with clinical and academic groups at King's College London and the CR-UK Drug Development Office.

    Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

    Education/Academic qualification

    Biochemistry, B cell and Antibody Immunology, Doctor of Philosophy, The process of endocytosis of CD23, King's College London

    Award Date: 1 Aug 1995

    Biochemistry, Master of Science, Selective chemical modification of Aequorea green-fluorescent protein, Rutgers University

    Award Date: 1 Jun 1991

    Biochemistry, Bachelor of Arts, Rutgers University

    Award Date: 1 May 1987


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