Dr Patricia Sancho

Dr Patricia Sancho

Centre: Centre for Stem Cells in Cancer & Ageing
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

QMUL Directory

Our research explores the metabolic and redox features of cancer stem cells(CSCs) to identify new therapeutic options potentially applicable in the clinic.


Research Details

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) represent a subset of cancer cells that self-renew and are a source of the tumour cell bulk. These highly tumorigenic cells, when they survive treatment, can lead to tumour relapse and promote metastasis. Therefore cancer stem cells are a key target for any new treatment approach.

Although still under intense investigation, it has been proposed that CSCs undergo metabolic reprogramming; acquiring distinct metabolic features compared to the tumour cells they produce. As a result, CSCs may be better adapted to the tumour microenvironment as they could make use of alternative sources of energy or become more efficient at getting energy from them. However, CSCs' distinct metabolic characteristics could also represent drug targets, opening new therapeutic avenues.

We and others recently reported that the anti-diabetic compound and mitochondrial complex I inhibitor metformin significantly delays tumour growth in a pancreatic cancer model. We showed that this compound was particularly lethal to the CSC subpopulation, having anti-growth and cell death-promoting effects. We also reported that metformin was able to prevent nicotine-induced pancreatic carcinogenesis and tumour growth in a mouse model by promoting acinar cell formation.

These findings suggest that metabolism-based strategies could be a powerful tool to combat pancreatic cancer, and could be expanded to other resilient tumour types.


  • 2014: Lecturer in the Centre for Stem Cells in Cancer & Ageing at the Barts Cancer Institute
  • 2012-14: Staff Scientist in the Stem Cells & Cancer Group headed by Prof. Christopher Heeschen, at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO, Madrid, Spain).
  • 2006-2012: Postdoctoral researcher in the Biological Clues of the Invasive and Metastatic Phenotype Group lead by Prof. Isabel Fabregat at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL, Barcelona, Spain)
  • 2005: Postdoctoral researcher at the Apoptose and Systeme Immunitaire group, supervised by Dr. Santos Susin, at the Pasteur Institute (Paris, France)
  • 2000-2004: PhD student at the Cell Death and Stress Group under the supervision of Dr. Patricio Aller at the Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas (CIB, CSIC, Madrid, Spain)


2015-2017: Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund - “Targeting mitochondrial metabolism as the Achilles heel of pancreatic cancer stem cells”, £174,238

Key Publications

Sancho P, Burgos E, Tavera A, Bou Kheir T, Jagust P, Schoenhals M, Barneda D, Sellers K, Campos-Olivas R, Graña O, Viera CR, Yuneva M, Sainz Jr B, Heeschen C. MYC/PGC-1α Balance Determines the Metabolic Phenotype and Plasticity of Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells. Cell Metabolism (2015) 22(4):590-605. PMID: 26365176

Hermann PC*, Sancho P*, Cañamero M, Martinelli P, Madriles F, Michl P, Gress T, de Pascual R, Gandia L, Guerra C, Barbacid M, Wagner M, Vieira CR, Aicher A, Real FX, Sainz B Jr, Heeschen C. Nicotine Promotes Initiation and Progression of KRAS-induced Pancreatic Cancer via Gata6-dependent Dedifferentiation of Acinar Cells in Mice. Gastroenterology (2014) Aug 12. pii: S0016-5085(14)00983-4. PMID: 25127677

Lonardo E, Cioffi M, Sancho P, Sanchez-Ripoll Y, Trabulo SM, Dorado J, Balic A, Hidalgo M, Heeschen C. Metformin targets the metabolic achilles heel of human pancreatic cancer stem cells. PLOS ONE (2013) Oct 18;8(10):e76518. PMID: 24204632

Ortiz C, Caja L, Bertran E, Gonzalez-Rodriguez Á, Valverde ÁM, Fabregat I, Sancho P. Protein-tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) deficiency confers resistance to transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced suppressor effects in hepatocytes. J Biol Chem (2012) May 4;287(19):15263-74. PMID: 22427664

Further Publications

Additional publications will be available here soon.

Our research explores the metabolic and redox features of cancer stem cells(CSCs) to identify new therapeutic options potentially applicable in the clinic.


See other researchers working on:

Metabolism Pancreas Stem Cells
This site uses cookies in order to function properly. By continuing to browse, you agree that we can save them on your device. Privacy Policy.