Dr Arran K Turnbull (BSc(Hons), MBChB, MSc(Res), PhD)

Senior Lecturer and Group Leader


Dr Arran Turnbull is a senior lecturer and principal investigator leading the Translational Oncology Research Team at the Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre. Arran's research work and the work of his team focuses primarily on estrogen receptor positive and HER2-positive breast cancer and includes understanding the development of drug resistance, through high-throughout proteomics and deep sequencing, predicting drug response, new target discovery. Arran's other research interests include DCIS, prostate cancer, radiotherapy resistance. Arran also leads on a number of national and international collaborations with other research groups, 3rd party companies and major pharma. Arran's research has been funded by Breast Cancer Now for the last 10 years and in 2018 he was honoured with the Breast Cancer Now Researcher of the Year award.

Arran's undergraduate honours degree was in molecular biology this was followed by a masters by research degree in immunology, genetics and pathway medicine. Arran went on to study medicine at the University of Glasgow and a PhD in oncology at the University of Edinburgh.  In 2012 Arran took up a post-doctoral research position in the Edinburgh Breast Cancer Now Research Team, leading the lab-based research and a number of local and international collaborations. In 2014, Arran went on to form his own research group, the Translational Oncology Research Group which comprises two post-doctoral researchers and a research assistant.

Arran's PhD focused on the successful development and validation of a translational predictive test for endocrine therapy response in breast cancer. This test has been successfully validated in several independent cohorts of patients with the initial results published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This test is now moving towards a prospective clinical trial both in the UK and USA.

Arran is also the course organiser and lead for the Reproductive Cancer Biology Elective under the Reproductive Sciences Programme at the University of Edinburgh. In 2019 Arran was appointed as the research lead on the Sanming Project of Medicine, a 5-years teaching and research collaboration between the University of Hong Kong, University of Edinburgh and Shenzhen Hospital. Arran is also the chair of the organising committee and founder of the Edinburgh Breast Cancer Special Symposium, an international breast cancer conference which runs in Edinburgh every 2 years. In this role, Arran also coordinates a series of international clinical and research training days on a variety of breast cancer topics. Arran is also on the funding committee for the Breast Cancer Institute, a local breast cancer charity.



BSc (Hons), MBChB, MSc(Res), PhD

Undergraduate teaching

  • Lecturer and tutor for the undergraduate honours reproductive cancer biology programme (2017-)
  • Lecturer for the undergraduate honours reproductive biology programme  (2014 - 2016)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Research summary

Breast Cancer

  • Prediction of response to endocrine therapy.
  • Mechanisms of endocrine therapy resistance.
  • HER2 positive breast cancer.


  • Discovery and validation of predictive biomarkers for risk of DCIS recurrence.

Radiotherapy - ImpactBio Project

  • Development of an assay for secreted biomarkers predictive of response to radiotherapy in solid tumours.

Prostate Cancer

  • Study to investigate the molecular basis of elasticity in prostate cancer diagnosis as part of the “e-finger” mechanical diagnostic device development.

Cancer Imaging

  • Clinical application of microwave radiometry to cancer diagnosis and measurment of treatment response.

Other Research Interests

  • In situ mutation detection and fluorescence in situ hybridisation.
  • Gene Sequencing and transcriptomics approaches.
  • Bioinformatics and predictive modelling.

Affiliated research centres

  • Hong Kong University
  • Breast Cancer Research Laboratories, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  • UNC Lineberger, University of North Carolina

Current project grants

Breast Cancer Institute: £50,000 project grant (2018-20) (awarded as principal investigator)
Breast Cancer Institute: £40,000 project grant (2018-19) (awarded as principal investigator)
Sanming Project of Medicine: £1.1M (2018-2023) (awarded as co-applicant)
Breast Cancer Now Project Grant: £200,000 (2018-2020) (awarded as co-principal investigator)
Breast Cancer Research Trust: £100,000 project grant (2017-2019) (awarded as co-principal investigator)
John Black Charitable Trust and Urology Foundation: £50,000 project grant (2017-2019) (awarded as principal investigator)
Breast Cancer Institute: £80,000 project grant (2016-2017) (awarded as principal investigator)

In the press

  • Interview with Pink Ribbon – “Interview with Edinburgh Breast Unit – Surgery and Tests – Professor JM Dixon and Dr A Turnbull” December 2017.
  • Breast Cancer Now promotional video – “Breast Cancer Now in Scotland” October 2015.
  • The National newspaper – “Breakthrough in breast cancer hormone therapy after Edinburgh research” 2nd June 2015.
  • The Herald Scotland – “New test to quickly identify best breast cancer treatment” 1st June 2015.
  • Edinburgh Evening News – “Join Mike in his fight for breast cancer breakthrough” 29th August 2013.
  • Breakthrough Breast Cancer media – “Spotlight on… Dr Arran Turnbull” 3rd August 2013.
  • Scotsman on Sunday National newspaper article – “Hopes for a new breast cancer test” 9th June 2013.

Post-doctoral Reseachers

Lab Technicians

  • Anu Fernando

Current Students

  • Jess Leung (2018) - undergraduate medicine student selected component project
  • Iman Ahmed (2018) - undergraduate medicine student selected component project
  • Johan Roslan (2018) - undergraduate medicine student selected component project

Previous Students

  • Sarah Mog (2018) - undergraduate medicine student selected component project
  • JD Yau (2016-17) - undergraduate medicine student selected component project
  • Daniel McStay (2017-18) - undergraduate honours project
  • Phoebe Thornton (2014) - undergraduate honours project
  • Charlotte Heerlyn (2014) - undergraduate honours project