MRC Human Genetics Unit
Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit

Duncan Sproul Research Group

Epigenetics in Human Disease

Dr Duncan Sproul - CRUK Career Development Fellow

Section: Genome Regulation

Research in a Nutshell 

Our work focuses on understanding the role of epigenetic dysfunction in cancer, particularly breast cancer. Epigenetic marks signpost the DNA and are believed to help cells switch genes on and off. For example, to ensure that the genes that make haemoglobin are switched on in blood cells but not brain cells. Alterations in the levels epigenetic marks, are an intrinsic hallmark of cancer. However, we do not currently understand how this epigenetic dysfunction drives cancer and how it can be targeted to treat patients.

Our main focus is on understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning the widespread alterations in the repressive epigenetic mark DNA methylation observed in breast cancer. We take an interdisciplinary approach combining computational analysis of large datasets with focused experiments in the laboratory. We apply machine-learning techniques to define molecular epigenomic signatures in patient cohorts and dissect the mechanisms underpinning these signatures using genome-editing techniques in experimental models. While we principally work on DNA methyl

ation in breast cancer, we collaborate.


Research Programme


D.Sproul group 2017


Dr Duncan Sproul Group Leader
Jon Higham Postdoctoral Scientist
Hazel Davidson-Smith Research Assistant

Cristina Rubio Ramon

Research Assistant

Francesca Taglini

Postdoctoral Scientist
Nicholas Younger PhD student
Ioannis Kafetzopoulos PhD student



  • Dr Guido Sanguinetti, University of Edinburgh School of Informatics. The application of machine learning techniques to cancer epigenomics.

Partners and Funders

  • Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellowship

Scientific Themes

Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Bioinformatics, Breast cancer

Technology Expertise

Epigenomics, Genome editing, Machine learning, bioinformatics