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Dr Zoë S Walters BSc (hons), PhD, FHEA

Lecturer in Translational Epigenomics

Dr Zoë S Walters's photo

Dr Zoë Walters is a lecturer in translational epigenomics and is a Module Lead on the MSc Genomics within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton.

Dr Zoë Walters was appointed Lecturer in Translational Epigenomics within the Faculty of Medicine in 2017. In 2015 Zoë was awarded a Children with Cancer UK Fellowship to study the role of an epigenetic protein, EZH2, in a soft tissue sarcoma known as rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS). Zoë’s research team at Southampton focuses on aberrant epigenetic mechanisms that contribute to the pathogenesis of diseases including cancer. Zoë is also part of the Senior Management Team and is Co-Lead for the Genomics Guided Treatment and Dissertation modules for the MSc in Genomics.

Zoë gained a BSc in Molecular Genetics at the University of Sussex where she also obtained her PhD working on signal transduction mechanisms in the formation of the wing and leg structures in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. From there she went to Cardiff University where she undertook research using the model organism Xenopus to uncover novel genes involved in Wnt signalling that might provide insights into tumorigenesis. Here she discovered a solute carrier involved in embryonic patterning in the frog that is linked to Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signalling. In 2008, Zoë joined Prof. Janet Shipley’s team at the Institute of Cancer Research where she investigated novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of RMS. 


PhD, Developmental Genetics, University of Sussex  (2006)

BSc (Hons), Molecular Genetics in Biotechnology, University of Sussex (2002)


Appointments held

Dissertation Module Lead, MSc Genomic Medicine, University of Southampton (2017-)

Genomics Guided Treatment Module Lead, MSc Genomic Medicine, University of Southampton (2020-)

 Programme Lead, MSc Genomic Medicine, University of Southampton (2018-2020)

Children with Cancer UK Fellow (2015-2021)

Dissertation Module Lead, MSc Genomic Medicine, University of Southampton (2017-2018)

Module Lead, MSc Oncology, Institute of Cancer Research (2014-2017)

Research Fellow: Histone Demethylase Target Validation in Cancer  (2012-2014)

Research Fellow: The relationship between PAX3-FKHR and MYCN expression in high-risk childhood rhabdomyosarcomas and potential for therapeutic intervention (2008-2012)

Research Fellow: Isolation of modifiers of Wnt and p53 pathways in Xenopus embryos (2006-2007)

Research interests


Differentiation is the process by which pluripotent (unspecialised) cells stop proliferating and become mature cells with characteristics specific to a particular lineage. Cancer cells are thought to lack the ability to be able to fully differentiation into their mature cell fate and as such remain undifferentiated and continue to proliferate uncontrollably. Epigenetic mechanisms, such as histone methylation, have been shown to control the process of differentiation. These marks and the enzymes that regulate them have been shown to be aberrant in a number of malignancies. My lab is investigating the role of a number of histone modifying enzymes in maintaining the undifferentiated state of paediatric cancers including neuroblastomas and soft tissue sarcomas.  My lab is also working alongside Prof Tim Underwood’s lab to identify targetable genetic aberrations in oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) including epigenetic targets, for the treatment of these cancers. We are interested in how these enzymes can be exploited therapeutically, both as single agents and in combination with other therapies, to force cancer cells to differentiate to a more benign state. 

Rare Disease

Through internal collaborations our team is investigating the potential for using epigenetic and other targeted therapies by a precision medicine approach for the treatment of rare diseases.


Evaluating the efficacy of Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) inhibitors in combination with anti-GD2/isotretinoin for the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma

Utilising sarcoma omic information to identify disease gene networks and associated novel therapies for patients

Investigating the therapeutic efficacy of EZH2 inhibitors for the treatment of diseases with pathogenic histone modifying enzyme mutations.

“nvestigating the efficacy of combination epigenetic and chemotherapies for the treatment of oesophageal adenocarcinoma

Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) as a therapeutic Target in Rhabdomyosarcomas.

Combining epigenetic and differentiation therapy for the treatment of sarcomas and paediatric cancers.

Contribution of heterogeneity of differentiation to treatment resistance.

Research group

Cancer Sciences

Past Group Members

Dr Ian Tracy – Postdoctoral Fellow (University of Southampton)
Miss Thahmina Alom – Summer student, Pathological Society Sponsored (University of Southampton)
Dr Eleanor O’Brien – Postdoctoral Fellow (Institute of Cancer Research)

PhD supervision

Oliver Pickering (Ongoing) - “Investigating the role of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) in oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC)"
Eleanor O’Brien (Completed) - " Regulation of MYCN Expression and Stability in Rhabdomyosarcoma"
Thomas Buist (Completed) - "Combined computational and experimental approach enriches target identification and validation in paediatric rhabdomyosarcomas"

MSc Dissertation supervision

Claire Fosbrook (Ongoing) -
Dominica McAndrew (Ongoing) -
Lauren Packard (Ongoing) - “A systematic review of vorinostat in children with high-risk neuroblastoma"
Magdalena Karolak (Completed) – “Could EZH2 be a good potential target of treatment for patients with soft tissue sarcomas? A systematic review.” (Now published)
Shabnam Shehan (Completed) – “Data Integration of Multiomics Studies in Paediatric Cancer”
Ashraj Khosa (Completed) – “Optimisation of Chromatin Immunoprecipitation for the Identification of Genomic Targets of Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 (EZH2) in Paediatric Rhabdomyosarcomas”

BM Project supervision

Rehman Saleem (Ongoing) – “The effect of histone-modifying enzyme inhibitors on oesophageal adenocarcinoma cancer cell lines”
Shayna Moellenberg (Ongoing) – “Investigating the efficacy of EZH2 inhibitors in combination with cisplatin in oesophageal cancer”
Kate Manzie (Ongoing) – “A Study on the effect of combination therapy of Tazametastat and Retinoic Acid on differentiation and apoptosis in high-risk neuroblastomas.”
Adam Williams (Completed) - “Identifying potential targets of EZH2 in rhabdomyosarcoma“
Max Healey (Completed) – “Exploring the role of KMT2D in neuronal cells and preadipocytes using publicly available data sets”
Charlotte Mercer (Completed) – “Utilising Pre-Clinical Models to Investigate the Efficacy of Combining Retinoic Acid Derivatives and EZH2 Inhibitors for High Risk Neuroblastoma”.
Ryland Hale (Completed) – “Combining epigenetic and differentiation therapy for the treatment of Synovial Sarcomas”. (Now published)

Faculty roles

Faculty Education Committee
Postgraduate Taught Programmes Committee
BMedSc Field Lead, Translational Cancer Cell Biology 

External Membership

Pathological Society
Genetics Society
Journal Reviewing
Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, Biomolecules, Clinical Epigenetics, Journal of Pathology, Cancers; Journal of Clinical Medicine, Oncotarget, Cancer Letters; Clinical and Experimental Metastasis; PLoS ONE

 Editorial Board Member

Guest Editor, Special Issue, Cancers: Personalized Therapies in Oesophageal Cancer
Guest Editor, Special Collection, JoVE: 3D Models in Pediatric Cancer
Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, Molecular Medicine


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Zoë is Genomics Guided Treatment and Dissertation Co-Lead for the MSc Genomics

Dr Zoë S Walters
Faculty of Medicine, Room AB215, Mailpoint 801, South Academic Block, University Hospital Southampton, Tremona Road, Southampton, SO16 6YD

Room Number : SGH/Somers CS/C14/MP808

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