Caroline Dive, CBE, PhD, FBPhS, FMedSci, Director of the CRUK Manchester Institute Cancer Biomarker Centre, University of Manchester, has been recognized by the IASLC with the Mary J. Matthews Pathology/Translational Research Award. The award recognizes an IASLC scientist for a lifetime achievement in pathology and translational research of thoracic malignancies.
“I am utterly delighted and feel honored and grateful,” Professor Dive said. “I am blessed to have a career that I love and have been so lucky to have found wonderful colleagues and collaborators with whom I must share any credit.”
Prof. Dive is currently President of the European Association for Cancer Research. She was awarded the Pasteur-Weizmann/Servier International Prize in 2012 for her biomarker research, the AstraZeneca Prize for Women in Pharmacology in 2016, and the 2019 Heine H. Hansen Lectureship Award by the IASLC. She was also awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to cancer research. Her research interests span tumor biology, biomarker discovery, preclinical pharmacology, and biomarker assay validation and qualification.
Prof. Dive’s interest in lung cancer was aided by good timing, she said. When she first moved to what was then called the Paterson Institute in Manchester to set up a Cancer Biomarker Research program she became fascinated with circulating tumor cells (CTCs) for use as a liquid biopsy. At about this time Dr. Fiona Blackhall returned to Manchester’s Christie Hospital from a translational research post at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. The two clicked and began a longstanding twinning of scientist and academic/clinician and a shared journey to understand the biology of SCLC.
“The first sample we assessed for circulating tumor cells using the CellSearch Platform was from a patient with SCLC, where they are abundant,” Prof. Dive said. “This was the springboard of our mission for liquid biopsies in SCLC trials.”
Since then, Prof. Dive has had many important accomplishments in the field, including the development of the CTC-derived mouse models called CTC-patient derived eXplant (CDX) models, which has been a landmark for SCLC research.
“Biopsies are tough in SCLC. We now have more tissue to study because we have shown these CDX are patient faithful and cover the recently established subtypes,” Prof. Dive said. “These models from a 10-mL blood sample can be made before and after a patient’s chemotherapy and allow us to study the chemoresistance that occurs in each patient.”
She is also proud that some of the earliest work on circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) done with AstraZeneca and Professor Andrew Hughes ultimately led to the first ctDNA-based biomarker for personalized medicine for NSCLC with EGFR inhibitors.
With Professor Charles Swanton at University College London and the Francis Crick Institute, Prof. Dive co-leads the CRUK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, wherein a focus within the United Kingdom’s national TRACERx consortium is on NSCLC CTCs.
“We have been able to track genomes of early CTCs through to metastatic lesions,” Prof. Dive said.
Finally, she is also proud of her Cancer Biomarker Centre that she has been developing since 2003.
Facing Challenges, Revealing Secrets
All of these accomplishments are a reflection of Prof. Dive’s belief that curiosity-driven basic science leads to tomorrow’s medicine.
“Translational science, optimally a partnership between nonclinically and clinically trained researchers is essential if we want to improve patient outcomes,” Prof. Dive said. “This is challenging.”
Prof. Dive is not afraid of a challenge though in pursing her goals. After all, her lifelong mentor—her 93-year-old father—taught her that the sky is the limit.
Looking to the future of the field, Prof. Dive acknowledged the great progress of the past decade but pointed out that most funding and time is spent on understanding late-stage disease.
“One of the areas I have become increasingly interested in is the early biology and earlier detection of lung cancers,” Prof. Dive said. “A blood test for early-stage lung cancer will be utterly transformative.”
She and her team have been collecting blood samples in vans at local shopping center carparks from individuals who have had low-dose computed tomography scans to pick up early cancers. They hope this will be a fantastic sample set with which to develop and validate a blood test for early-stage lung cancer.
“Lung cancers have many ‘secrets’ yet to be revealed,” Prof. Dive said. She encourages young professionals in the field to stay curious, stay committed, enjoy the science, find good mentors and collaborators, and have a career plan while being on the lookout for opportunities.