EGA Institute for Women's Health



Principal Investigator


Prof Martin Widschwendter
Head of Research Department of Women's Cancer
Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist 

Research Team

Alison Jones

Ms Allison Jones
Research Associate
Email: allison.jones@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2001

Further details: I completed my BSc in Applied and Human Biology at Aston University Birmingham in 1997. Since my degree, I have accrued over 17 years’ experience working in cancer research laboratories within London. From 2000 to 2003 I worked at Breakthrough Breast Cancer where I began to specialise in research focussed on understanding the development of women specific cancer and treatment resistance. I joined Professor Widschwendter’s laboratory at UCL in 2006 and have since been integrally involved in two major research programmes: EpiFemCare (an FP7 funded programme of research aiming to develop epigenetic based tests for the early detection of breast and ovarian cancers) and, more recently, FORECEE (a Horizon 2020 programme of research aiming to develop clinical tests to risk predict future development of women specific cancer). As well as undertaking research, my primary role in the team has been to lead on the laboratory logistics required to implement our EC funded research programmes and to project manage timelines. Our research has a primary focus on the study of epigenetics and the involvement of epigenetic processes in cancer development. I am particularly interested in the study of epigenetic changes occurring in normal (non-diseased) cells in response to environmental exposures (e.g. diet, lifestyle) and how these changes could be used to assess an individual’s disease risk.

Gioia Altobelli

Dr Gioia Altobelli PhD
Senior Research Associate Bioinformatics, Women’s Cancer
Email: g.altobelli@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7679 6063

Further details: A computational biologist experienced in omics data analysis, I am keen on developing integrative computational statistical frameworks that enable reliable exploitation of large-scale, experimental datasets for understanding complex diseases. Corresponding author in epigenomics and bioinformatics, I joined the team in order to assess the association between multi-tissue methylome and multi-cancer risk in FORECEE.

I earned my PhD with a thesis in bioinformatics applied to molecular oncology (breast cancer) at the International School for Advanced Studies at the University of Turin. My background education encompassed physics, biophysics, and computer simulation. I contributed to the understanding of diverse biological systems and processes in a multidisciplinary fashion, authoring 15 peer-reviewed publications (as part of a team as well as independently). Manuscripts in life course epidemiology are in preparation.





Kanta Chindera

Dr Kantaraja Chindera
Research Associate
Email: k.chindera@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2008

Further details: I graduated in Veterinary Medicine in 2004, from the Veterinary College, Bangalore, India. I then completed my Master of Veterinary Science in Animal Biotechnology in 2008 from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute. I secured Commonwealth Scholarships in 2009 to pursue my PhD at The Royal Veterinary College, University of London. During my PhD, I invented a new class of drug delivery molecules and based on these findings, I co-founded a spin out company Tecrea Limited.

Upon completion of my PhD, I joined Prof Widschwendter’s research team. I am actively involved in the BRCA PREVENT project and am investigating the molecular pathways leading to Serous Tubal Intraepithelial Carcinoma (STIC) at the fimbrial end of the Fallopian Tube in BRCA mutation carriers using Fallopian Tube Organoid Models. I am also working on a project which aims to devise preventive measures that could block the appearance of STIC lesions, eventually preventing High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer. I am actively collaborating with Prof Satish Awasthi, Delhi University to develop evidence based preventive and therapeutic measures to women at high risk of HGSOC. I also mentor MSc student research projects. Our overarching goal is to devise evidence based non-invasive preventive measures for population at high risk of developing High Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer.




Dr Iona Evans
Research Associate
Email: iona.evans@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2001

Further details: Following the completion of a BSc (Hons) degree in Microbiology at the University of Wales, Cardiff in 1999, I went on to do a PhD, investigating the NF-kB pathway and inflammation at University of Sheffield. In September 2004, I made the move to UCL, and started my postdoctoral training, at the Centre for Respiratory Research (later renamed the Centre for Inflammation and Tissue Repair), under the supervision of Prof Robin McAnulty. The main focus of the group was the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases including pulmonary fibrosis. During this time, I developed an interest in epigenetics, and began to investigate a role for epigenetics in fibroproliferative disease. In 2013, I joined Prof Martin Widschwendter’s team, where epigenetics is the main focus, and began working on the EU funded EpiFemCare project. My focus on this project was the development of a cfDNA based assays to predict breast and ovarian cancer early, using DNA methylation. The team is now working on a very exciting new H2020 project called FORECEE, where we are aiming to develop a screen to predict women’s cancers, using a multi-omics approach.


Mrs Shohreh (Taraneh) Ghazali
Clinical Research Practitioner
Email: shohreh.ghazali.12@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2002

Further details: After studying for an MSc in Midwifery in Iran I became a university lecturer; then after coming to the UK I obtained my second MSc in Prenatal Genetics and Fetal Medicine at the Institute for Women's Health in 2013. My thesis was in the cryopreservation of ovarian tissue to preserve fertility in women with cancer. The technique used was identifying viable follicles by Neutral Red staining to increase the chance of pregnancy after implantation of ovarian tissues with the highest follicle load. I joined Prof Widschwendter’s team in January 2014 on the EpiFemCare project and  I am currently working on the FORECEE project. My responsibility is managing patient recruitment in UCLH and other collecting centres in London and the UK.




Ms Maria-Goretti Gonzales
Clinical Research Midwife
Email: m.gonzales@ucl.ac.uk

Further details: I studied my Nursing Degree at Universidad  de Valladolid in Spain (2006) where I worked as an oncology nurse. I completed my BSc(Hons) in Midwifery at City University in 2011. Since then I have been working at University College London Hospital where I am currently a member of the research team working for The Baby Biome Study. In 2015 I obtained a Diploma in Tropical Nursing at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
In 2016 I joined the UCL Cancer Institute where I currently have the privilege of working within  the recruitment team for the FORECEE project lead by Professor Martin Widschwendter. I have always had a huge interest in women's health research and female cancer prevention and therefore my goal is to study for a Master’s degree in Research in the near future.

Mr Richard Gunu

Research Associate/Biomedical Scientist

Email: r.gunu@ucl.ac.uk


Dr Shaun Haran MBChB Hons

Specialist Clinical Trainee & Research Associate

Email: s.haran@ucl.ac.uk

Upon completion of my Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Science (MBChB Hons) in 2010 I was awarded the academic prize in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. Having had a specialist interest in women’s cancers, over 2 years I worked at a Urological Specialist Cancer Unit as a surgical trainee and at the Royal Surrey County Hospital as a Clinical Fellow in Robotics & Gynaecological Oncology before entering specialty training in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 2014. Having worked closely with the Gynaecological Oncology surgical team at University College London Hospital (UCLH) since 2015, I have recently been awarded a Clinical Academic Fellowship Award from UCLH that has allowed me the wonderful opportunity to work with Professor Martin Widschwendter and his academic team. I am currently actively collaborating with the BRCA PROTECT group and Professor Mark Lowdell, Director of the Centre for Cell, Gene & Tissue Therapy at the Royal Free Hospital London and University College London Cancer BioBank. Our aim is to better understand the immune function and its role in contributing to breast and ovarian cancer development in women with the BRCA mutation.



Ms Smita Karegodar
Research Assistant
Email: s.karegodar@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2008

Further details: I undertook my Bachelor of Computing degree in Applications from Gulbarga University, India in 2013. I joined Prof Widschwendter’s group in November 2014. I am actively involved in the BRCA PREVENT research project. My role is to maintain cell lines and to conduct molecular biology experiments for the BRCA PREVENT project. I am also responsible for updating the Department of Women’s Cancer website.



Dr Susanne Knapp
Research Associate
Email: s.knapp@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2002

Further details: I obtained my PhD in Molecular Genetics at the University of Cologne, Germany working in the field of Plant Genetics at the Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany. Under a Capital and Mobility Fellowship from the EU I came to the UK to work on a biotechnology project at Unilever. After that I joined the Biotechnology team at Whitbread working on yeast and hops genetics. As I was fascinated by the challenges of working on human disease, I joined Imperial College London where I was involved in research projects around Genetic host factors associated with the susceptibility to HCV and HBV infection and HCC. From there my interest developed into the area of personalized medicine and I came to UCL in January 2016 to join Prof Martin Widschwendter’s group where we are working as a team on the development of a test to detect the risk of cancer in woman before the cancer arises. My main responsibility is to set up and run the Hamilton automation platform and process thousands of samples which we collect within Europe and prepare those samples for the analysis on the Illumina EPIC chip array.



Dr Dan Reisel
Senior Research Associate
Email: d.reisel@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3108 2003
Twitter: @danreisel

Further details: I have always been interested in how organisms change and adapt, and what happens when normal change is disrupted. For my PhD with Prof Nick Rawlins at the University of Oxford, I carried out physiological and behavioural characterisation of a transgenic mouse model with a conditional deletion of the AMPA1 glutamate receptor, showing that this receptor was key to temporary information storage in cells. After completing NHS Foundation Training in 2013, I started working in Prof Martin Widschwendter’s group, where I have helped to establish the FORECEE/4C Study, an international biosample study aimed at finding new ways to predict and prevent gynaecological and breast cancer. In 2016, I commenced a three-year NIHR-sponsored Academic Clinical Fellowship based at UCL, combining research into the epigenetics of women’s cancer with specialist training in Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

Dr Adam Rosenthal

Dr Adam Rosenthal
Consultant Gynaecologist
Email: adam.rosenthal@ucl.ac.uk

Further details: I am a Consultant Gynaecologist and Lead Colposcopist at University College London Hospital. I have a longstanding interest in gynaecological cancer research focused on ovarian cancer screening and inherited gynaecological cancers. I am Clinical Lead on the UK Familial Ovarian Cancer Screening Study (UKFOCSS) and have published extensively in journals including the Lancet, Lancet Oncology, the Journal of Clinical Oncology and the British Journal of Cancer. I have been co-applicant on a number of grants from Cancer Research UK, NHS Research and Development, the Eve Appeal and the BUPA Foundation. My clinical interests are gynaecological cancers and precancers, colposcopy, laparoscopic and open surgery, anogenital neoplasia and inherited (familial) gynaecological cancers. I am currently actively collaborating in the BRCA PROTECT and FORECEE projects.


Andy Ryan

Dr Andy Ryan
Data Manager
Email: a.ryan@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 3447 2109

Further details: Degree from the Department of Zoology at Cambridge University. PhD in the molecular biology of the DNA repair syndrome xeroderma pigmentosum at the CRC Gray Laboratory. First postdoc position at the Biochemistry Department of Imperial College London identifying a X-linked zinc finger transcription factor gene. Moved to St. Barts, London to postdoc in the Gynaecological Cancer Research Group investigating the molecular genetics and epigenetics of ovarian cancer. In 2001 I took on the data management role for UKCTOCS, the world’s largest randomised controlled (ovarian) cancer screening trial, now in follow-up phase based at UCL. In 2013 I joined (part-time) the EpiFemCare project as data manager in the Translational Research Centre, UCL and I am currently involved in the FORECEE trial.


Mrs Sheila Spicer
BRCA PROTECT Clinic Administrator
Email: sheila.spicer@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 0020 3447 2125

Further details: I’m the Clinic Administrator for the BRCA PROTECT Research Clinic programme. I have been with the team for nearly two years, and have had the pleasure in seeing the programme grow from the early stages. I previously worked on the UKCTOCS trial, which I was part of for over 15 years, assisting the team with their clerical needs. It is a privilege to be part of a huge team at the Women’s Institute of Health and work alongside some great research projects that are always striving to enhance its knowledge of cancer and ways in which we can detect cancer early to help find a cure.

Andrew Teschendorff

Dr Andrew Teschendorff
Newton Advanced Fellow & Principal Research Associate
Email: a.teschendorff@ucl.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7679 0727

Further details: Andrew Teschendorff trained as a Theoretical Physicist at the University of Edinburgh and Cambridge University, where in May 2000 he obtained his PhD in Theoretical Particle Physics. He entered the field of Statistical Cancer Genomics in 2003, joining first the Breast Cancer Functional Genomics Lab at the University of Cambridge and later the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London. Currently, he is a Principal Investigator heading the Computational Systems Genomics at the CAS-MPG Partner Institute for Computational Biology in Shanghai. He also holds an appointment at the Department of Women’s Cancer UCL and a Newton Royal Society Fellowship at the UCL Cancer Institute. His broad research interest is in Statistical Cancer Epigenomics and Cancer System-omics. He has published over 100 papers in peer-reviewed journals, is Associate Editor for Epigenomics, BMC Systems Biology and Scientific Reports, and reviews regularly for many journals including Nature, JAMA, Nature Methods, Genome Research, Genome Biology, PLoS Computational Biology, and Bioinformatics. He is the recipient of various academic awards, including the Tait Medal and Robert Schlapp Prize in Physics (1995), the Jennings Prize (1996), a Cambridge-MIT Initiative Fellowship (2003-2005), an Isaac Newton Trust Award (2006), the Heller Research Fellowship (2008-2013), a Wellcome Trust VIP Award (2009-2010), and a CAS Visiting Professorship (2013-2014). He is the statistical lead on the Horizon 2020 FORECEE programme and holds 2 patents on Risk Prediction in Cancer


Ms Jiran Vatankhah Atashgah
Clinical Research Nurse
Email: jiran.vatankhah@ucl.ac.uk

Further details: I am a Clinical Research Nurse working on the FORECEE, BRCA PROTECT and BRCA PREVENT projects. I joined Prof Widschwendter’s group in 2016. My role is to consent suitable patients and healthy volunteers for our research projects, collect blood, swabs, smear and tissue, and liaise with clinicians and research teams in order to obtain samples. Prior to joining UCL, I worked at UCLH for 12 years as a nurse and as a midwife.


Dr Nafisa Wilkinson MA MB BChir FRCPath
Gynae-Onc Consultant Pathologist at UCLH
Email: Nafisa.Wilkinson@uclh.nhs.uk

Further Details: I am the lead Gynae-Onc Consultant Pathologist at UCLH. Apart from my role as pathologist, my research interests encompasses the pathophysiology of both Ovarian and Endometrial cancers. More specifically, I am interested in the mechanisms involved in the transition from hyperplasia to carcinoma in endometrioid endometrial carcinoma and the development of novel strategies for therapeutic intervention, in particular for younger women of reproductive age. From a clinical perspective, my interests lie with the identification of novel diagnostic markers for endometrial hyperplasia subtyping and prognostic markers of Ovarian carcinoma. With the latter I am interested in the pathogenesis of Ovarian cancer. My clinical areas of interest are also related to my research interests, i.e. Ovarian and endometrial cancers as well as mesenchymal tumours of the Uterus.

I am currently actively collaborating in the BRCA PROTECT and BRCA PREVENT projects and helping to establish BRCA mutant Fallopian Tube organoids and secretory epithelial cell lines to understand why BRCA mutation carriers develop serous tubal intraepithelial carcinoma (STIC) at the fimbrial end of the Fallopian Tube. Our aim is to devise preventive measures for populations at high risk of high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

Other Collaborators

EpiFemCare Consortium
FORECEE Consortium

Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre