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Dr Clare Bennett
UCL Cancer Institute, Paul O'Gorman Building
72 Huntley street
Dr Clare Bennett profile picture
  • Associate Professor in Immuno-haematology
  • Research Department of Haematology
  • Cancer Institute
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences
I have led the DC Immunotherapy research group at UCL since 2007, first at the Royal Free campus and in the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation, and since 2021 in the Cancer Institute Paul O'Gorman Building. I completed my BSc at the University of East Anglia, and subsequently carried out my PhD research at the University of Edinburgh under the mentorship of Professor Clare Blackburn.  Following my PhD I continued my research as a Wellcome international travel fellow at the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Medical Centre under the guidance Professor Martin Kapsenberg and Dr Bjorn Clausen. I then returned to the UK to set up my independent lab at UCL.
Research Groups
Research Themes
Research Summary

Dendritic cells (DC) are specialised immune cells that link innate and adaptive immunity.  In the skin they function in co-operation with other immune cells, including Langerhans cells (LC), the unique macrophage population of the epidermis, and other myeloid and lymphoid populations in the dermis.  Together these cells work together to maintain skin immune homeostasis.

Our key research goals are to gain a greater understanding of LC and DC development and function within the skin, and how these processes become dysregulated in cancer and as a result of immune pathology.  We use this knowledge to develop new ways of harnessing DC for immunotherapy.

Projects in the lab are focused on:

1. Defining the plasticity and function of skin myeloid cells in GVHD.

DC have the potential to activate immune responses against tumours.  However, in other settings DC may also drive unwanted immune responses, resulting in immunopathology and tissue damage. This dichotomy is particularly relevant after bone marrow transplant when DC likely drive the anti-tumour response, but also activate donor T cells to destroy tissues such as the skin and intestine (graft-versus-host disease, GVHD).  We are interested in understanding how skin DC drive cutaneous immunopathology, and in turn, how damage to the skin alters the resident DC and LC populations.

We have shown that immune injury leads to replacement of the resident LC network by monocyte-derived cells that became functionally and transcriptionally indistinguishable from the cells they replace.  On-going work aims to address fundamental questions about the intrinsic and extrinsic signals that control monocyte differentiation in the epidermis, and what the consequence of LC replacement is for cutaneous immunity. 

2. Harnessing DC for cancer immunotherapy

The development of T cell immunotherapies has revolutionised our approach to treating cancer.  However, despite this many patients and cancers do not respond, and there is a need to build on this success to improved treatment outcomes.  DC are essential for T cell-mediated rejection of tumours, but we still know little about how DC may work with T cells to promote tumour destruction after immunotherapy.  We have a number of projects in the lab that are seeking to apply our understanding of DC biology to improving immunotherapeutic treatments of across cancers. 

Teaching Summary

Emphasising my bridge between the Cancer Institute and Immunology at UCL I am committed to sharing my passion for research with undergraduate and graduate students at UCL.

  • From 2014 to 2021 I led the Division of Infection and Immunity “Cancer and the Immune system” module (15 units) for iBSC, BSC and MSc students from across UCL. 

  • In 2020 I co-established the new “Cancer Immunotherapy” compulsory 30-unit module as part of the Cancer Institute Cancer MSc programme, which I have led since 2021.  To set up the new course I designed the teaching content, focusing on broadcasting the depth of immunotherapy programmes in the Cancer Institute, and teaching students about how laboratory research is leading to new therapies in the clinic.  

I also teach on:

  • INIM006 Immunology in Health and Disease
  • INIM0040 Fundamental and Applied Immunology
  • INIM0031 The Immune System, Cancer, and its Treatment

In other teaching roles: 

  • I annually have welcome 1-2 students undergraduate and graduate students into my lab for their laboratory projects, and supervise literature projects for students on the MSci Cell Biology course.

  • I am a member of thesis committees across divisions at UCL and at the Francis Crick Institute, which includes examination of up-grade vivas, and regularly examine PhD students as the internal and external examiner.

  • I have been a member of the Member of the Cancer Institute Education Committee since 2014 and was a member of the Infection and Immunity Divisional Teaching Committee from 2014 to 2020.
  • I was an external examiner for the Imperial College London MSc Immunology course for 5 years for 2014 to 2019. 

01-OCT-2017 Reader in Immuno-haematology Haematology Cancer Institute, United Kingdom
01-APR-2013 – 30-SEP-2017 Senior Lecturer Haematology Cancer Institute, United Kingdom
01-APR-2007 – 31-MAR-2013 Senior Bennett Fellow (Blood Cancer UK) Haematology Cancer Institute, United Kingdom
01-APR-2006 – 31-MAR-2007 Wellcome International travel fellow Haematology Cancer Institute, United Kingdom
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