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Personal profile


After being awarded a BSc in Biochemistry and Applied Molecular Biology from the University of Manchester Institiute of Science and Technology (UMIST), Susan moved to the University of Liverpool to perform her PhD studies in trying to understand the effect of Alkylation Damage in the filamentous fungus, Aspergillus nidulans. This initiated her long standing interest in DNA repair and the role this plays in carcinogenesis. After completing her PhD, she moved to Edinburgh in 1992 to begin her career in understanding the genetic factors involved in colorectal cancer susceptibility and carcinogenesis. After completing her post-doctoral training at the MRC Human Genetics Unit she became a Research Fellow within the University of Edinburgh and was subsequently offered a number of personal research fellowships and obtained further funding to pursue her research into colorectal cancer genetics, incorporating her renewed interest in DNA repair mechanisms and their role in colorectal cancer susceptibility. In 2006 she was promoted to her current position of Senior Scientist and remains an active member of the Colon Cancer Genetics Group within the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine.




Research Interests

Cancer of the large bowel and rectum (colorectal cancer) is a major public health problem as it is one of the commonest causes of early death due to cancer in the non-smoking male and female populations. The CCGG have collected and utilised population based DNA samples from colorectal cancer cases (~4000) and age and sex matched controls (~4000) to identify novel genes predisposing to colorectal cancer. Using genetic association strategies and candidate gene/pathway analysis, a number of genes/loci have been shown to be involved in susceptibility to the disease. Of the candidate pathways investigated, defects in both DNA mis-match repair (MMR) and base-excision repair (BER) have been identified as major risk factors in colorectal cancer susceptibility and other genes involved in the repair of oxidative damage are under investigation for rare-moderate and common low risk alleles. The large prospective collection has also enabled the influence of dietary and environmental factors on colorectal cancer risk to be explored and gene-environment interaction analyses are underway. Finally, recent identification of novel genes and loci involved in subtle increases in disease risk are a new and exciting challenge in trying to establish and understand their role in disease initiation and progression in vitro and in vivo. Ultimately the aim is to establish whether the pathways can be targeted for new therapeutic and preventative agents

Current Research Interests

Identifying and understanding the risk factors involved in susceptibility to colorectal cancer.

Administrative Roles

Post-graduate director for Oncology (2005) and then Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre until Sep 2010

Member of IGMM post-graduate studies committee – 2011-present

Member of School of MCM/ MGPHS post-graduate studies committee – 2005-present

Member of MVM College post-graduate studies committee (2005-2010)

Part of internal review panel team and have performed 2 Quinquennial post-graduate School Reviews (2010; 2011).

Member of MVM Athena SWAN self-assessment team (co-Convenor from 2016 to present)


Scottish Oncology course for Radiologists (2008, 2009)

MSc courses - Cancer Biology (2006-2010)

                    Quantitative Genetics and Genomics Analysis (2008-present)

Undergraduate course - Molecular Biology of Disease [MLBI10017] (2011-present).

                                  Cancer Biology and Medicine [MSBM10019] (2013-present)

Good Practise in PhD course from 2005 to 2010

Academic lead in the Thesis Workshop provided by IAD (2011-present).

My research in a nutshell

The overall aim is to target appropriate clinical screening to those people most at risk of developing colorectal cancer, as this has proven efficacy. This can only be done by better understanding of the risk factors associated with the disease, both at the genetic/heritable level and environmental factors and indeed the ways they can interact and modify disease risk.

Collaborative Activity

Prof Malcolm Dunlop, IGMM

Prof Harry Campbell, IGMM

Dr Farhat Din, IGMM

Dr Albert Tenesa, Roslin

Dr Evropi Theodoratou, IGMM

Dr Colin Semple, IGMM

Prof Ian Jackson, IGMM

Dr Martin Taylor, IGMM

Prof Owen Sansom, Beatson

Dr Lina Zgaga, Dublin



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