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Research Theme

Madalena Tarsounas

Professor of Molecular & Cell Biology

  • CRUK Senior Group Leader - Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology

Research Summary

Germline heterozygous mutations in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes predispose affected individuals to several types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic. Functional BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumour suppressors play key roles in DNA replication, where they promote stability and restart of stalled replication forks. Moreover, they mediate HR repair, the accurate DNA repair pathway, essential for preserving genome integrity. Consequently, cells with compromised BRCA1/2 function have slow rates of replication and accumulate stalled and damaged replication forks. These pathologies lead to replication-associated DNA damage and genome instability, a signature of BRCA1/2-mutated cells and tumours. Work conducted in my laboratory aims to unravel the mechanisms underlying replication failure in BRCA1/2-deficient cells and how this knowledge can be exploited for the development of novel therapeutic strategies.


Dr. Madalena Tarsounas obtained her PhD at York University in Toronto, Canada (1999). She then undertook postdoctoral training at the Clare Hall Laboratories of the CRUK London Research Institute (1999-2005), funded by postdoctoral fellowships from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and the Breast Cancer Campaign. Dr. Tarsounas joined the MRC Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology in December 2005 as a CRUK Junior Group Leader and was promoted to CRUK Senior Group Leader position in December 2011. In 2015 she became University of Oxford Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology.

In 2010, Dr. Tarsounas was elected EMBO Young Investigator. In 2011, she initiated the EMBO Conference Series on ‘DNA damage responses in cell physiology and disease’ held in Cape Sounio, Greece, which has since become a biennial international event. In 2017, Prof. Tarsounas was awarded the prestigious Mayent-Rothschild Prize for her sabbatical stay at the Institute Curie in Paris.

Work in Prof. Tarsounas' laboratory is funded by CRUK, MRC, Breast Cancer Now and EMBO, as well as an Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Network Award.


Hugo Benainous, DPhil student
Rebecca Dagg, Postdoctoral Researcher
Florian Groelly, DPhil student
Giuliana de Gregoriis, Postdoctoral Researcher
Anastasiya Kosova, Postdoctoral Researcher
Emilia Puig Lombardi, Postdoctoral Researcher 
Yanti De Visser, MRes student


Dr. Alex Zelensky (Feb. 2006 – Jan. 2008) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Ronal Kanaar, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Dr. Chunyan Liao (March 2008 - March 2010) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: research assistant in the lab of Prof. Sherif El-Khamisy, University of Sheffield, UK.
Kerstin Klare (Oct. 2010 – Aug. 2011) MRes student, co-supervised with Prof. George Iliakis (University of Essen, Germany). Next destination: post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute, Dortmund, Germany.
Maria Thanasoula (Oct. 2007 – Oct. 2011) CRUK-funded DPhil student. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow in Prof. Andrea Musacchio’s lab at the Max Planck Institute, Dortmund, Germany.
Dr. Jose Escandell (April 2008 – Nov. 2012) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow at the Gulbenkian Institute, Lisbon, Portugal.
Dr. Panagiotis Kotsantis (April 2011 – Oct. 2012) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow at The Crick Institute, London UK.
Ana Rita Carlos (Jan. 2010 – Dec. 2012) DPhil student funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Research and Technology. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Miguel Soares, Gulbenkian Institute, Lisbon, Portugal.
Dr. Natsuko Suwaki (August 2010 – Feb. 2013) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: Glaxo SmithKline, London, UK.
Eliana Tacconi (Oct. 2012 – Nov. 2015) MRC-funded DPhil student. Next destination: studying medicine at University of Oxford, UK.
Mathilde de Jong (Oct. 2013 – August 2014) MRes. student co-supervised with Dr. Geert Koops (Utrecht University). Next destination: PhD student,  University Medical Centre Groningen, Netherlands.
Dr. Cecilia Folio (Feb. 2013 - Oct. 2016) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: research scientist at Adaptimmune, Abingdon, UK.
Dr. Johanna Michl (Oct. 2014 - June 2017) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow in Department of Anatomy, University of Oxford, UK.
Jutta Zimmer (Oct. 2014 – Oct. 2017) CRUK-funded DPhil student, University of Oxford. Next destination:  CRUK funding administrative team, London, UK.
Gijs Zonderland (Oct. 2015 – Dec. 2017) MRes student. Next destination: PhD student at University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dr. Xianning Lai (May 2013 - July 2017) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow at National University of Singapore, Cancer Science Institute, Singapore.
Sophie Badie (Jan. 2006 - Oct. 2018) laboratory technician. Next destination: research scientist  at Adaptimmune, Abingdon, UK.

Timo Reislander (Feb. 2017 - Feb. 2020) DPhil student funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Dr. Angelina Zheleva (July 2018 - April 2020) CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow at University of Navarra, Department of Molecular Therapies.

Recent publications

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