MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Liz Patton Research Group

Targeting developmental cell states in melanoma

Liz Patton portrait
Professor Liz Patton

Section: Disease Models

Research in a Nutshell 

Melanoma (cancer of the melanocyte) kills over 20,000 Europeans each year and incidence continues to rise rapidly. BRAFV600E inhibitors and immune therapy have led to clinically significant improvements in outcomes for melanoma patients, yet many patients with metastatic melanoma rapidly succumb to the disease due to eventual chemoresistance, or insensitivity to the drug. Thus, it is critical to identify new therapies that can act alone, or be combined with available treatments for enhanced efficacy and/or to overcome drug resistance.

Our research is focused on understanding how melanocytes – the pigment cells that become melanoma – develop, divide, migrate and maintain homeostasis within their microenvironment, as well as the genetic and cellular events that cause melanocytes to form moles and their progression to invasive cancer. To do this, we use the zebrafish system, which allows both the visualization of developing and migrating melanocytes, as well as their aberrant progression to melanoma. 

The zebrafish is a powerful model system to study developmental biology, chemical biology and disease models. Due to the similar genetic, molecular and cancer pathology between humans and fish, our melanoma progression model can be viewed as an important starting point for identifying novel genes, environmental conditions, and therapeutic compounds that affect melanoma progression. 

We use genetics and chemical-biology to discover the fundamental processes that contribute to melanocyte development during embryogenesis, and explore how these processes contribute to melanoma development. Our lab at the MRC Human Genetics Unit has close collaborations with the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre, and ultimately we aim to translate our discoveries in zebrafish to the understanding and treatment of human disease. We have two zebrafish facilities at the IGMM, and access to a wide range of transgenic and genetic lines, diverse chemical libraries, and state-of-the-art imaging facilities.

Liz Patton Research Group


Professor E. Elizabeth Patton Group Leader
Kelly Blacklock Veterinary Research Fellow
Alessandro Brombin Research Fellow
Hannah Brunsdon Research Fellow
Shiao Chow Chemistry Research Fellow
Jana Travnickova Research Fellow
Adelaide Young Research Fellow
Zhiqiang Zeng Research Fellow
Yuting Lu PhD student
Zahra Massoud PhD student
Sarah Muise PhD student


Liz Patton Research Group fun version


  • Tamir Chandra (MRC Human Genetics Unit)

  • Chris Ponting (MRC Human Genetics Unit)

  • Colin Semple (MRC Human Genetics Unit)

  • Martin Taylor (MRC Human Genetics Unit)

  • Robert Semple (The University of Edinburgh)

  • Veronica Kinsler (Crick Institute)

  • Richard White (MSKCC, USA)

Partners and Funders

  • Medical Research Council
  • Melanoma Research Alliance
  • Rosetrees Trust
  • CLOVES Syndrome Community & Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
  • European Research Council


Scientific Themes

Melanoma, Melanocyte, Zebrafish, Disease models, Chemical genetics

Technology Expertise

Chemical biology, Drug target ID, CRISPR mutations