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Research groups

MRC iCASE Partnership - Student Project:
How does the tumour microenvironment affect cancer cell responses to DNA damage repair inhibition during radiotherapy?

Our research aims to develop therapies that selectively exploit tumour responses to improve radiotherapy efficacy and tolerability. We are interested in how DNA damage sensitivity can be modulated under radiation and in diverse tumour microenvironments and metabolic backgrounds. Our work is strongly aligned with the MRC’s themes of developing precision medicine and advanced therapies.

The expertise of both the Higgins and Giaccia groups in clinical translation, tumour metabolism, hypoxia, and radiotherapy responses will synergise with the DDR and drug development knowledge base of our commercial partner, Artios Pharma Ltd. This project will screen diverse cancer cell lines for vulnerabilities that arise from different tumour microenvironmental conditions (i.e. hypoxia, low glucose etc.) in response to DDRi (including Polqi) and radiation treatments.

This collaborative project will provide unique opportunities for a PhD student to experience both sides of academic and industrial cancer research, including the exposure to the drug discovery and development pipelines that has high relevance for translational research.

Research Theme

Tumour Microenvironment (Lead Principal Investigator)

Geoff Higgins

Associate Professor

  • Malcolm & Margaret Howat Associate Professor of Clinical Oncology
  • Clinical Director CRUK RadNet Oxford
  • Honorary Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust

Research Summary

Our group’s aim is to develop strategies to increase the efficacy of radiotherapy treatment. This work often involves repurposing existing compounds, or developing new treatments, that can be effectively combined with radiotherapy. Where possible, we seek to translate our laboratory findings into clinical trials utilising functional imaging and genomic data to provide signals of pharmacodynamic efficacy. 


Geoff Higgins is the Malcolm & Margaret Howat Associate Professor in Clinical Oncology.

He obtained degrees in pharmacology (1997) and medicine (2000) from Edinburgh University and undertook specialist training in Clinical Oncology at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre. He subsequently moved to Oxford and was awarded a Royal College of Radiologists/CRUK Clinical Research Fellowship leading to a DPhil in 2010. Geoff subsequently obtained his Clinician Scientist and Advanced Clinician Scientist Fellowships from Cancer Research UK.

His research includes laboratory and clinical research aiming to improve the efficacy of radiotherapy treatment. He is currently the Chief Investigator of two clinical trials and is joint-lead investigator of the CRUK National Cancer Imaging Translational Accelerator.


Laboratory Research:

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Berriguete, Postdoctoral Researcher
Rathi Puliyadi, Research Assistant
Puru Thambiayah, DPhil student
Nicole Machado, MRes Student
Wei-Chen Cheng, Bioinformatician

Clinical Research:

Daniel McGowan, Postdoctoral Researcher
Joy Roach, Clinical Research Fellow (DPhil student)
Martina McAteer, Engagement Manager (NCITA)
Edith Gallagher, Research Radiographer


James Coates (DPhil Student 2015-2019) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Harvard University

Kate Herbert (Postdoctoral Researcher 2015-2019) - Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Glasgow

Michael Skwarski (Clinical Research Fellow 2016-2019) - Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Guy’s Hospital, London

Tom Ashton (Postdoctoral Researcher 2011-2017) - Senior Scientist, Adaptimmune Therapeutics

Daniel McGowan (DPhil Student 2013-2016) - NIHR Clinical Lecturer and Medical Physicist, Oxford

Giacomo Pirovano (DPhil student 2012-2015) - Postdoctoral Researcher, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, New York

Gaga Tiwana (DPhil Student 2012-2015) - Senior Scientist, Horizon Discovery