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Understanding altered chromatin biology in childhood cancers

Cancer can in many cases be understood as a disease of dysfunctional gene expression control. In fact, we now know that around 30% of all cancer causing mutations occur in genes encoding regulators of transcriptional and chromatin biology. Therefore, it’s clear that altering these processes is central to disease development in a large fraction of patients. In particular, alteration of transcriptional biology is pervasive in childhood cancers, and appears to be the primary cause of disease development in most patients. Our research investigates how the pathways that control transcriptional and chromatin biology are altered in cancer cells. Our work makes extensive use of epigenomic, genomic and biochemical approaches to characterise the effects of cancer causing mutations in childhood cancer model systems (sarcomas, leukemias and brain tumours). Our goal is to gain insights into the fundamental biological changes that occur in cancer cells, such that we may better understand initiation and development of these diseases.

Developing new approaches to treat childhood cancers

Through a better understanding of oncogenic gene expression processes we are identifying new approaches to more effectively treat cancer patients. By exploiting fundamental insights into oncogenic chromatin biology we are establishing vulnerabilities against which we can develop new therapeutics. Moreover, we are also taking a systematic approach to identify such vulnerabilities by making extensive use of CRISPR/Cas9 based functional genetic as well as chemical biology screening platforms to reveal cancer specific functions on chromatin regulators. By combining these approaches with novel approaches in chemical biology and drug design we are developing new small-molecules which will provide a new generation of rational, mechanistically anchored cancer therapeutics.

Education/Academic qualification

Chromatin Biochemistry, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Trinity College Dublin


Genetics and Cell Biology, Bachelor of Science, Dublin City University


College Research Themes

  • College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine


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