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Our new Leadership Fellow launches a research group in cancer epigenetics and epitranscriptomics.

We are delighted to introduce Dr Parinaz Mehdipour, who has joined the Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, as a Leadership Fellow. Parinaz joins us from the University Health Network, Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, Canada, where she was a post-doctoral researcher in Dr Daniel De Carvalho’s laboratory. Parinaz is now leading her first independent research programme, focused on cancer epigenetics and epitranscriptomics.

Parinaz’s research is focused on basic and translational aspects of epigenetic regulation and RNA modifications in the treatment of cancer. In particular, she investigates immunogenic double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) that are induced by DNA methylation inhibitors. These dsRNAs mimic viral infection and trigger innate immune responses, helping to turn the body’s immune system against cancer cells. In her post-doctoral work, she discovered that the source of immunogenic dsRNAs induced by treatment of colorectal cancer cells with DNA methylation inhibitors are inverted Alus (IR-Alus), a class of SINE repeat elements.

The research programme that Parinaz has launched at Ludwig Oxford is at the exciting and promising interface of epigenetics and immunology. She will explore how immunogenic nucleic acids can act as novel biomarkers for predicting patient responses to cancer therapy. She will also investigate how the innate immune system discerns endogenous from exogenous nucleic acids, and ways to exploit these pathways to improve cancer treatments or identify novel candidates for therapeutic targeting.

We are excited that Parinaz’s research group will further strengthen cancer epigenetics research at Ludwig Oxford. We look forward to productive new synergies with the research programmes of Ludwig Oxford scientists, including Professor Yang Shi, Dr Benjamin Schuster-Böckler and Professor Skirmantas Kriaucionis, as well as the wider Oxford and Ludwig communities.