Deciphering the heterogeneity of breast cancer at the epigenetic and genetic levels

Deciphering the heterogeneity of breast cancer at the epigenetic and genetic levels

Project details

Breast cancer (BC) is the most common breast cancer to affect women. Although survival has improved, prognosis of aggressive forms of the disease remains poor. BC is a highly heterogeneous disease comprising multiple subtypes. Over the past decade, large-scale genomic studies have highlighted genetic alterations that occur in different BC subtypes, however, the molecular mechanisms underlying the molecular heterogeneity are poorly understood. These include epigenetic mechanisms, which alter chromatin structure and precede changes in gene expression. 

This project will utilise state-of-the-art chromatin analyses and single cell technologies to uncover epigenetic mechanisms operating in normal mammary epithelial subpopulations (including those that express hormone receptors and those that do not), and how these change as BC develops. 

This project will involve the use of a wide range of experimental techniques, including normal tissue analysis, cell sorting, pre-clinical models, single-cell technologies and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. 

About our research group

The Visvader/Lindeman laboratory is part of the Cancer Biology and Stem Cells Division and has a strong background in mammary gland biology and pre-clinical models of breast cancer including translational research that has led to clinical trials.  

Contributions include insights into stem and progenitor cells and their contribution to the mammary gland hierarchy (eg Nature 2006, 2010, 2014; Nature Cell Biol 2007, 2020; Nature Comms 2016, 2017; Cancer Cell 2019; EMBO J 2021); the identification of the cell-of-origin of breast cancer (Nature Medicine 2009, 2016); and pre-clinical modelling leading to clinical trials (Cancer Cell 2013; Cancer Discovery 2019; Clin Cancer Res 2020).  

We routinely exploit in vivo models (including lineage tracing models and patient-derived xenograft models), single cell studies, flow cytometry, high resolution 3D imaging and genomics. 


Email supervisors

Colourful microscopy image
The mammary gland during development. Progenitor cells
were labelled using a multi-colour ‘confetti’ reporter.
Fields of descendant cells share the same colour.



Professor Jane Visvader

Jane Visvader
Joint Division Head

Professor Geoff Lindeman

Professor Geoffrey Lindeman in the lab
Joint Division Head
Dr Michael Milevskiy
ACRF Cancer Biology and Stem Cells

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