UCL Cancer Institute


Leukaemia Biology Research Group

Lab members

Dr Joana Costa

Dr Joana Costa, Post Doctoral Research Fellow

I am a Molecular and Cellular Biologist (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) with a PhD in Life Sciences (FCT-Universidade Nova de Lisboa/Imperial College London), and now funded by a Junior Research Fellowship from the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund (KKLF).

I have always been fascinated by the mechanisms of transcriptional regulation that orchestrate gene expression and the consequent impact on cell-type specification, particularly in haematopoiesis. This has been my main motivation in studying the contribution of the non-coding genome to aberrant gene activation in haematopoietic cells. In the Mansour Lab, I have a great opportunity to study the role of MYB-enhancer mutations in oncogene activation, using T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia as a cancer model. I am using a panel of molecular and biochemical techniques to address this question and also learning bioinformatic tools for novel mutation discovery. Outside of the lab my main passions are music J and photography. I enjoy a lot going to music concerts and also like theatre, cinema and practicing yoga.

Dr Theresa Leon…

Dr Theresa Leon, Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Funded by the Prince Fund. I am a molecular biologist, with a Masters degree in Immunology and a PhD in Biomedicine from University of Barcelona.  My PhD work focused on the molecular mechanisms involved in LXR mediated prevention of atherosclerosis, a project funded by ‘Fundacio Marato de TV3’. During this period I became very interested in Nuclear Receptors and their role in inflammatory diseases and cancer. Now I am interested in understanding how epigenetic marks affect the transcriptional landscape of T-ALL, with the aim of discovering new therapeutic targets to overcome chemoresistance. This involves utilising CRISPR engineered cell lines and synthetic lethality screening using drugs and shRNAs. Outside the lab I like practicing yoga, cooking for friends. @there_leon 

Dr Victor Lombart
 Dr Victor Llombart, Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Funded by CRUK. I studied Biotechnology BsC at Universitat Rovira i Virgili (2010), Immunology MsC at Universitat de Barcelona (2011) and completed my PhD in Biomedicine from Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (2016). During my PhD I was involved in the discovery of new biomarkers for stroke diagnosis through different proteomic approaches. My current research is focused on the generation of a functional map of the oncoprotein c-MYC aiming to discover novel protein-protein interactions that drive MYC oncogenicity in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) using a combination of proteomic and molecular techniques. The discovery of novel “druggable” pockets that are essential for these interactions might improve not only the treatment of T-ALL but also the treatment on many other cancer types. Outside the lab I love cycling and I enjoy playing and watching football, especially when Barça is on the pitch.

Dr Sunniyat Rahman…

Dr Sunniyat Rahman, Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Funded by Bloodwise. Clinical Medicine Research, PhD, DIC (2015) – Imperial College London. Biochemistry, MBiochem (2009) University of Oxford (Queen’s). My research is focused on the discovery of novel epigenetic and genetic aberrations that drive T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL), particularly those that impinge on the transcriptional control of proto-oncogenes and tumour suppressors. I utilise a variety of techniques including bespoke next-generation sequencing, classical molecular biology assays and biochemical approaches in my research endeavors. Outside of the lab, I blog science minimolecule.com and try to keep up with my supervisor on Twitter @minimolecule. My hobbies include cycling recreationally, practicing my modest squash skills with friends and sometimes mixing electronic music.

Dr Nadine Farah

Dr Nadine Farah, Clinical Research Training Fellow

I studied Medicine at Cambridge University and have a BA in Natural Sciences, and MB BChir in Medicine and Surgery. I then completed my general medical training in London, and Specialist Haematology Training on the Imperial Northwest London Haematology rotation. My postgraduate qualifications include the MRCP and FRCPath in Haematology. I am currently funded by the Institute of Child Health and am interested in understanding the pathogenesis of T-ALL. In particular my research is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms that lead to chemotherapy resistance in this disease, and in developing therapeutic strategies to overcome this resistance. Other interests: I also try to keep up with my supervisor and post doc on Twitter (@NadineFarah3). I love travelling the countryside with my family and occasionally I play the piano. 

Dr David O'Connor
Dr David O'Connor, Clinical Research Training Fellow

I am a CRUK-funded Clinician Scientist Fellow and work as an honorary consultant in paediatric haematology at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. I completed my PhD at Imperial College exploring leukaemogenesis in Down syndrome under the supervision of Professor Irene Roberts.
My current research focuses on understanding the genetic mechanisms that drive resistance in childhood leukaemias, particularly T-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. I utilise a range of techniques including next generation sequencing and CRISPR genome-wide screening to identify aberrant pathways that could be targeted with novel agents. In addition, I am involved in paediatric clinical trials and have published several papers on stratification in ALL that have led to changes in current treatment algorithms. 

Sara Ahrabi

Dr Sara Ahrabi, Hardy Keinan Fellow.

Having won a CRUK and Clarendon scholarship to support my MSc and PhD studies at University of Oxford, I developed novel genetic technology in human cancer cell lines. Using this genetic assay, I examined the mutation signatures in response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in different genetic backgrounds. I defined a role for SETD2, histone methyltransferase in suppressing break-induced mutations (Pfister et al., Cell Reports 2014); showed that CRISPR and I-SceI -induced DSBs resulted in different repair profiles (Gravells et al., Hum Mol Genet. 2015); and demonstrated a novel interplay between different DSB repair pathways (Ahrabi et al., Nucleic Acids Res 2016). To expand my research interests into translational areas, I am currently funded by the Hardy Keinan fellowship to identify novel therapeutic targets in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Utilising CRISPR engineered human cell lines, I am performing synthetic lethality screening using CRISPR libraries. I also enjoy swimming, travelling, and organizing/holding parties for friends!

Simon Richardson

Dr Simon Richardson, NIHR Clinical Lecturer.

I studied preclinical medicine and pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, graduated from the University of Oxford clinical school in 2005 and entered the UCL academic haematology training programme in 2009. My research interest is to explore the interactions and dependencies between driver mutations and cellular context in acute leukaemia. I undertook my PhD in the laboratory of Prof Tariq Enver at the UCL Cancer Institute using human pluripotent stem cells to model the impact of the childhood B-ALL driver mutation ETV6-RUNX1 on human fetal lymphopoiesis. My current research is adapting next generation sequencing techniques to identify novel non-coding mutations in cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukaemia. Between clinical and research commitments I enjoy learning with my children, playing and listening to music and will take any opportunity to get outdoors.

Group alumni

  • Michael Magnussen, MSc: moved to British Heart Foundation PhD programme, UCL