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MRC iCASE Partnership - Student Project:
How does the tumour microenvironment affect cancer cell responses to DNA damage repair inhibition during radiotherapy?

Our research aims to develop therapies that selectively exploit tumour responses to improve radiotherapy efficacy and tolerability. We are interested in how DNA damage sensitivity can be modulated under radiation and in diverse tumour microenvironments and metabolic backgrounds. Our work is strongly aligned with the MRC’s themes of developing precision medicine and advanced therapies.

The expertise of both the Higgins and Giaccia groups in clinical translation, tumour metabolism, hypoxia, and radiotherapy responses will synergise with the DDR and drug development knowledge base of our commercial partner, Artios Pharma Ltd. This project will screen diverse cancer cell lines for vulnerabilities that arise from different tumour microenvironmental conditions (i.e. hypoxia, low glucose etc.) in response to DDRi (including Polqi) and radiation treatments.

This collaborative project will provide unique opportunities for a PhD student to experience both sides of academic and industrial cancer research, including the exposure to the drug discovery and development pipelines that has high relevance for translational research.

Research Theme

Tumour Microenvironment (Lead Principal Investigator)

Geoffrey Higgins

Associate Professor

  • Honorary Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Medical Research Fellow, Corpus Christi College

Research Summary

My research focuses on finding new ways of making tumours more sensitive to radiotherapy treatment.


Geoff Higgins is an Associate Professor in the Oxford Institute for Radiation Oncology, having held a Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist award since 2011.

He is an Honorary Consultant Clinical Oncologist in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and is a Medical Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College.  

He previously undertook specialist medical training at the Edinburgh Cancer Centre before moving to Oxford as a Cancer Research UK Clinical Research Fellow in 2007.


James Coates, DPhil Student
Giovanna Granata, DPhil Student
Katharine Herbert, Postdoctoral Researcher
Daniel McGowan, Postdoctoral Researcher
Rathi Puliyadi, Research Assistant
Gonzalo Rodriguez-Berriguete, Postdoctoral Researcher
Michael Skwarski, Clinical Research Fellow
Elysia Traynor, Research Assistant