Dr Zoë Walters is an Associate Professor in translational epigenomics in the school of Cancer Sciences and is a Module Lead on the MSc Genomics within the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton. Zoë is a highly experienced molecular biologist whose area of expertise lies primarily in target identification and validation in cancer and developmental disorders. Zoë has over 18 years’ experience in molecular genetics, developmental biology, and cancer biology. Taking a precision medicine approach, the work in her team focuses on target validation, single agent and combination testing of epigenetic therapies, 2D and 3D pre-clinical models, biomarker identification and validation, determining mechanism of action (targets and drugs), factors affecting therapy resistance/relapse and the role of cancer stem cells.
- Target Prioritisation and Validation
- Epigenetics and genomics
- Developmental Disorders
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.
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.
Investigating 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.
Understanding the role of intratumoral heterogeneity to treatment resistance.
Current PhD Students
Dr Walters is Module lead for the Genomics Guided Treatment and Dissertation modules on the MSc Genomics. She is also Feild lead for Translational Cancer Cell Biolody for the BMedSci programme. She lectures on a number of modules at the Univerisyt of Southampton and externally. She has supervised a large number of BM and MSc project students.
External roles and responsibilities
- Enhancer of Zest Homolog 2 (EZH2) as a therapeutic target in Rhabdomyosarcomas (2014)