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 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 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. 

Dr Rachael Pocock
 Dr Rachael Pocock, Clinical Research Training Fellow

I am a Kay Kendall-funded clinical PhD student and haematology trainee in North Central London. During my CRUK-funded pre-doctoral fellowship I explored a novel potential therapeutic target for T-acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and I continue to build upon that work for my PhD. I am interested in dissecting the biology of leukaemia and translating this into new treatment strategies. Throughout my PhD I look forward to acquiring some of the many scientific skill sets that the Mansour group members have to offer. Outside of work I enjoy exploring with my family, reading and playing several sports (badly!).

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!

Gianna Bloye

Gianna Bloye, Research Technician.

During my Natural Sciences degree at UCL, I became fascinated by the complexity of gene expression regulation. I joined the Mansour lab as a technician to develop my understanding of how the non-coding genome contributes to disease pathogenesis, specifically in T-ALL.

My current project involves dissecting the epigenetic mechanisms that drive treatment resistance in T-ALL using a range of molecular techniques such as CRISPR and ATAC-sequencing.

Outside of the lab I enjoy cycling, cooking and watching live music with friends.

Ali Alhawaj

Dr Ali Alhawaj, PhD student

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery from Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia (2017) and joined College of Medicine as a teaching assistant. After that, I completed my master’s degree in Cell & Gene Therapy at UCL (2020), where I explored the role of cellular senescence as a potential mediator of chronic myeloid leukaemia treatment resistance.  
Currently, I’m a PhD student at Mansour group (funded by the Saudi Cultural Bureau). My research focuses on acute myeloid leukaemia resistance mechanisms. I’m utilizing clinical samples to examine the genomic and transcriptomic aberrations in coding & non-coding genome of patients with primary chemoresistant AML (induction failure), and further follow-up with functional studies. 
Other interests include Arabic poetry, theology, and practising MMA occasionally. You can find me on Twitter: @Ali_F_Alhawaj

Group alumni

  • Dr Theresa Leon, Principle Scientist at BenevolentAI
  • Michael Magnussen, MSc, British Heart Foundation PhD programme, UCL
  • Dr Sunniyat Rahman, Senior Research Fellow, Professor Mark Dawson Lab, Peter Mac, Australia
  • Dr Simon Richardson, CRUK Clinician Scientist Career Development Fellowship, University of Cambridge