Norman James Maitland

Contact details

Type of addressPostal address
Postal codeYO10 5YW
CountryUnited Kingdom
Address lines
  • Cancer Research Unit
    University of York
    Department of Biology (Area 13)
    PO Box 373
    YO10 5YW

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Prof. Norman James Maitland

Emeritus Professor

Biography

I was appointed in 1991, to the Chair of Molecular Biology at the University, where I am also Director of the Cancer Research Unit (CRU) (https://www.york.ac.uk/biology/research-groups/cru/), and hold an honorary chair in the Hull-York Medical School (HYMS).   I gained a First Class Honours degree in Biochemistry from the University of Glasgow and hold a PhD in Cancer Studies from the University of Birmingham.  After research training as a Robertson Research Fellow at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (USA) and the University of Edinburgh, I was appointed to the first UK Lectureship in Molecular Pathology at the University of Bristol to apply the then emerging science of molecular genetics to the analysis of primary clinical material from oral and paediatric tumours.  I remained in Bristol until 1991, until appointment to my appointment in York.

In addition to pursuing my prostate cancer research alongside the full time research staff in the CRU, I have trained more than 60 PhD, MD and MSc students and numerous undergraduate /intern students, many of whom now occupy senior scientific and clinical posts in the UK and abroad.

I hold or have held honorary Professorships at a number of European Universities, including Erasmus University (Rotterdam) and the Universities of Magna Gracia (Catanzaro, Italy), Parma (Italy) and Pisa (Italy) and collaborate widely both in the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA/Canada with other prostate cancer research centres.  I also consult for a number of Pharmaceutical and Biotech companies around the world, and sit on or chair a number of advisory boards for cancer research funding, both National and International, particularly in the prostate cancer field.

In 2009, I was awarded the EAU Chopin Prize for excellence in prostate cancer translational research.

From 2001-2011 I served as Chief Scientific Office of Procure Therapeutics Ltd - the University spin-out company I founded to exploit commercial opportunities arising from the research in the Unit.

 

Research interests

My research, funded by Prostate Cancer UK, Yorkshire Cancer Research, Charity Soul and other Charitable foundations is currently focused on the development of new therapies for human prostate cancer, based on a better understanding of the basic biology of the tumour.  Most current treatments are designed to target either fast-growing cells or cells in the prostate which are sensitive to male sex hormones.  However all tumours, and prostate cancer in particular are highly heterogeneous, and after 50 years of hormone-based therapies, there are still no long-lasting treatments for the cancers, when they have spread outside of the prostate. Early detection (where possible) combined with surgery/radiotherapy does have a high success rate for ‘organ confined’ cancers.

My focus has been to resolve this cellular heterogeneity to design more effective treatments.  My research in Biology benefits from the close links with HYMS and our clinical collaborators at Castle Hill Hospital in Hull.  This ensures that the majority of my research is carried out on fresh tumour material, obtained with full ethical consent from prostate cancer patients.  In contrast, the majority of drug development is carried out using established cell lines, cultured from prostate cancer patients almost 40 years ago.  My research group’s studies are technically more complex, but accurately reflect the disease in current patients, with whom I have developed a close relationship, and whom I thank for their generosity in donating their prostate tissues.  One primary outcome has been to confirm that every man’s prostate cancer is different at the genetic level, and therefore in its responses to treatment, emphasising the need for personalised medicine to effectively treat what is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men.

There is a particular emphasis on the biology of and gene expression patterns in prostate stem cells, multicellular models of prostate cancers and development of gene transfer vectors to direct gene expression specifically to tumour cells. Over the last 26 years in York, I have published around 200 papers and articles, including some of the highest cited in my field.  More detailed information about the research can be found on the Cancer Research Unit web pages (https://www.york.ac.uk/biology/research-groups/cru/).