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Research groups

Research Theme

Madalena Tarsounas

Professor of Molecular & Cell Biology

  • CRUK Senior Group Leader

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 has been awarded funding from CRUK, EMBO, MRC, Breast Cancer Now, Royal Society, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Awards.

GROUP MEMBERS (in the order of joining the team)

Rebecca Dagg, CRUK Postdoctoral Researcher
Ieuan Morgan, CRUK Postdoctoral Researcher
Teressa Paulsen, CRUK Postdoctoral Researcher
Birbal Prasad, CRUK Postdoctoral Researcher
Olivia Ramsay, CRUK DPhil student
Yuri Seung, DPhil 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, DPhil awarded Oct. 2011. 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, DPhil awarded Jan. 2013. 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, DPhil awarded Dec. 2015. 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, DPhil awarded Sept. 2017. Next destination:  CRUK funding administrative team, London, UK.

Gijs Zonderland (Oct. 2015 – Oct. 2017) CRUK-funded MRes student, MRes awarded Oct. 2017. 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. Next destination: oncology medical advisor at Laboratoires Servier, Munich, Germany.

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

Dr. Giuliana De Gregoriis (Sept. 2017 – April 2021) CR-UK funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: postdoctoral fellow at National Cancer Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dr. Emilia Puig-Lombardi (Nov. 2019 – Jan. 2021) EMBO/Marie Skłodowska-Curie funded postdoctoral fellow specialised in bioinformatics. Next destination: bioinformatics engineer at Institut Imagine, Paris.

Yanti de Visser (Oct. 2019 – Jan. 2021) MRes awarded March 2021, University of Oxford. Next destination:  PhD student at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Hugo Benainous (Oct. 2017 - March 2021) DPhil student funded by MRC Industrial Strategy DPhil StudentshipDPhil awarded March 2021, University of Oxford.

Dr. Anastasyia Kosova (Sept. 2019 – Sept. 2021) Breast Cancer Now funded postdoctoral fellow.

Florian Groelly (March 2018 - Sept. 2022) DPhil student funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020;  March 2021 - Sept. 2022 CRUK-funded postdoctoral fellow. Next destination: venture manager health, Creative Destruction Lab, University of Oxford.

Teofanija Trajanovska (Oct. 2021 - Oct. 2022) MRes student.
Alexandra Loedin (Oct. 2021 - Oct. 2022) MRes student.

Recent publications

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