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Research Themes



Skin cancer & Checkpoint Immunotherapy


We collaborate with Paul's team to further our understanding of MAIT cell function 

We are working with Hélène and colleagues to further our understanding of trans acting eQTL 

We are collaborating with Audrey's team to look at regulation of IFNG receptors across T cell subsets

Latest News

Fairfax lab members present at ESMO 2023

Benjamin Fairfax


Professor of Cancer Immunogenetics

  • Principal Investigator
  • Tumour Microenvironment/ Cancer Immunology Theme co-Lead
  • Consultant in Medical Oncology

Research Summary

As a clinician I work in the Oxford Cancer Centre to treat skin cancer - whilst in my lab I research variation between individuals in immune responses, especially those that are determined by our genetics. Understanding what these are is important because it can provide an unbiased picture into immune pathways that may form targets for new cancer therapies, as well as help make our current medications more personalised. 

How we vary between one another in our genetic code has a critical impact on events throughout our lives that our influenced by our immune system. Whilst we most think of genetic variation influencing our susceptibility to infection, it is increasingly clear that small genetic changes can influence individual patient's ability to respond to cancer immunotherapy - in terms of both cancer shrinking, but also the development of side effects from treatment - so called 'immune related Adverse Events' (irAEs). 

My group has recently demonstrated that patients who develop irAEs from immunotherapy for melanoma tend to have better clinical outcomes - but this is not always the case, and some patients have excellent clinical outcomes without getting side effects. Nonetheless, the links between patient genetics, there immune responses to immunotherapy, development of irAEs and response to the tumour are very strong. By studying these we are developing a much better picture of how immunotherapy works and hope that we will be able to take these findings back to the clinic to better target treatments.

For a full list of my work:


I did my PhD at the MRC-LMCB, UCL completing this in 2003 and then completed my clinical training in Oxford.

I was accepted onto the Oxford Academic Foundation programme and, having become interested in human genetics, took time away from clinical training to gain postdoctoral experience. I was awarded a Wellcome MB-PhD postdoctoral Fellowship and I did this in Julian Knight's group at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics. 

Upon completion of this I specialised in Medical Oncology. I see skin cancer patients as  a Consultant in the Oxford Cancer Centre. I am co-lead for the immunotherapy workstream of the NIHR Oncology Translational Research Group and I was made a full Professor in 2023.


Sophie MacKay, Research Assistant

Dylan Muldoon, Research Assistant

Shawn Sun, MRes Student

Dr Akin-Adigun Oluwafemi, MRes Student
Akin is a medical doctor specialising in Oncology in Nigeria who started a Masters by Research with the group in October 2023. He is exploring the determinants of B cell IL7  expression in patients with cancer.

Gusztav Milotay, DPhil Student
Gusztav started his DPhil in October 2023 and is working on T Cell Receptor de-orphanisation, as well as long-lasting effector T cells in patients with melanoma. His DPhil has been sponsored by Etcembly.

Dr Martin Little, Clinical Fellow & DPhil Student

Dr Guangyi Miu, Postdoctoral Bioinformatician

Dr Bo Sun, Academic Clinical Lecturer
Bo is a Clinical Lecturer in Neurology with an interest in the anti-cancer functions of B cell immunoglobulins. Bo started with the group in 2022.

James is a Clinical Lecturer in Paediatrics with an interest in the genetic determinants of gene expression with particular respect to immune cell function. He is currently investigating interactions between chronic viral infection and regulatory variants.

Dr Robert A Watson, Clinical Lectuer
Rob came to the group as a Clinical Fellow in Medical Oncology - he obtained a CRUK predoctoral fellowship and used single cell sequencing to explore peripheral CD8 T cell responses to immune checkpoint blockers. He then went on to secure a Wellcome Trust funded DPhil with the group, completing his thesis with a successful viva in 2023. He is now working towards translating some of he made during his DPhil into improving clinical practice.


Flavia Matos SantoResearch Assistant
Flavia started in the lab in April 2022 and contributed to all the projects as well as making sure the lab runs smoothly, leaving to return to Portugal in June 2023
Chelsea TaylorDPhil student
Chelsea started her DPhil in the group in 2017, successfully  defending her thesis in early 2022. She did a short postdoctoral fellowship with the group, with her main interest being the B cell response to checkpoint immunotherapy and their  cross-talk with T cells. Her other key interests are mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells  - in both cancer and chronic viral infection. Chelsea left the group in 2022 to work with Leucid on CAR-T cells.

Prior to starting his DPhil Orion worked at the Westmead centre in Sydney on dendritic cells in HIV. Orion started his work with us in October 2019 and is looking the genetic determinants of response to checkpoint blockade. Upon completion of his DPhil, Orion went to work with Infinitopes


Sara Danielli, Research Assistant - Completed a DPhil with Jelena Mirkovic at the Kennedy Institute, Oxford.

Alba Verge de los Aires, Research assistant

Alba was a  in the group from November 2019- late 2021. She has extensive experience in numerous immunological techniques, having previously worked at the Institut Necker-Enfants Malades in Paris where she worked on B cell subsets. Alba was a key figure for the group, preparing samples, organising the group and playing a key role in experimental success. She has now returned tolive with  her family in Barcelona.

Ros is a trainee pathologist who undertook her DPhil with the group starting in 2017, successfully passing her viva in late 2021 . Ros looked at circulating DNA in cancer patients as well as exploring the myeloid responses to checkpoint blockade using single-cell sequencing.

Isar started with the group in October 2017 and is the lead bioinformatician in the group. He is involved with multiple projects, but is particularly interested in context specific eQTL across immune cells.  He started working with the Oxford Genome Centre in mid 2021.

Piyush is a trainee surgeon from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and started in the group in October 2019. Piyush explored  gene expression across T cells and NK cells and the relationship with responsiveness to checkpoint blockade. He returned to surgical training in 2022 in USA, completing his DPhil in 2023.

Dr Victoria Woodcock, Academic Clinical Lecturer
Victoria is a Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology with expertise in Cancer Immunity, and an interest in the identification of cancer recognising T cells. Her DPhil work, performed in Prof. Enzo Cerundolo's laboratory at the MRC HIU, employed both CyTOF and T Cell receptor sequencing to describe melanoma recognising T cells.  After her lectureship Victoria has returned to clinical practice and trials work at the Oxford Cancer Centre.

Recent publications

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