Dr Alexander Haragan

Dr Alex Haragan is a pathology registrar with a specialist interest in immuno-oncology and thoracic pathology.

Alexander Haragan portrait pictureA primary career and research interest in personalised medicine and transforming our approach to treatment by using modern techniques. Graduating from The University of Aberdeen with a MBChB and 1st Class Honours BMS Bsc., the University of Glasgow with a Distinction MSc. in Stratified medicine involving time working in biotech companies and now working towards his PhD with the North West England MRC Fellowship Scheme, he is combing his clinical, academic and industrial skillsets to optimise the benefits and difficulties of using immune-modulators in lung cancer.

Immune-checkpoint therapy in non-small cell lung carcinoma: using molecular characterisation of the tumour microenvironment to improve efficacy of the anti-PD-1/PD-L1 class of drugs.

Lung cancer kills more people worldwide than any other cancer and has already spread in most patients at diagnosis, for whom chemotherapy of limited effectiveness has been the only treatment available. Fortunately, a new class of ‘immune modulating drugs’ has been recently developed. These work by removing the defences the tumour develops to protect it from the body’s normal immune system, exposing it to attack by the body’s immune cells.

The only means currently to predict whether these drugs will work is to assess the amount of a protein called PD-L1 on the tumour cells. Unfortunately, this particular ‘biomarker’ lacks accuracy; some patients who should respond do not and some patients who have little/no PD-L1 would probably respond but are missing out on this treatment.

Our study will examine why PD-L1 lacks precision by looking at how it varies between different parts of the tumour and areas of tumour spread, how it relates to inflammation and genetic mutations, and how all of these inter-relate. Ultimately, we wish to improve the accuracy of determining whether an individual patient with lung cancer will respond to these drugs, so that the most beneficial treatment can be given in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Working with industry:

During his Fellowship Dr Haragan has worked with Eli Lilly. He says:

“My supervisor Dr Aaron Gruver, from Eli Lilly & Co, has been an enthusiastic and wholly supportive member of the supervisory team, providing me with feedback and genuinely beneficial advice from the initial project design through to the thesis write-up, and I can say this PhD would not be as strong as it is without his support. Furthermore, my time in Indianapolis at Eli Lilly & Co HQ was a productive and fascinating period. The entire team there were friendly and supportive, with some excellent minds from fields of science I rarely interact with, giving me amazing perspective, as well as a unique insight into the workings of industry at this level. We were also able to produce two pieces of original published work and several presentations/ abstracts from my time there, and my collaborative relationship with Eli Lilly & Co is something I am continuing beyond the fellowship”

Back to: North West England MRC Fellowship Scheme in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics