Dr Serena Nik-Zainal

University of Cambridge

University departments
Department of Medical Genetics
MRC Cancer Unit
NHS or other affiliations
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Position: Clinical Research Nurse (CRN)
Personal home page: https://www.mrc-cu.cam.ac.uk/research/serenanikzainal
Email:   snz@mrc-cu.cam.ac.uk

PubMed journal articles - click here

Dr Serena Nik-Zainal is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.

Research description

A cancer genome carries the scars of historic mutagenic activity that has occurred throughout the development of the tumour. While driver mutations were the main focus of cancer research for a long time, passenger mutations are also biologically informative. They report the DNA damage and DNA repair processes that have been operative during tumorigenesis, that leave characteristic imprints or mutational signatures in the developing cancer genome.
Previously, we were focused on computational delineation of mutational signatures in human cancers. More recently, we have become engrossed in experimental validation of mutational signatures to understand the etiologies that underpin them including environmental and endogenous DNA replicative/repair sources of mutagenesis. The insights that we have gained through combinations of computational analysis and experiments in cell-based systems has led to the development of clinical algorithmic tools that we intend to translate into clinical utility in the near future.
This lab studies the physiology of mutagenesis combining computational approaches with experimental and cancer data. We also seek clinical validity of our observations. We are a diverse group of individuals and are interested in hearing from anyone interested in joining the academic laboratory or clinical/genomic infrastructure team.

Research Programme
Early Detection
Methods and technologies
Bioinformatics
Cell culture
Clinical practice
Computational modelling
DNA sequencing
Epidemiology
Fluorescence microscopy
Genomics
Statistical analysis
Tumour type interests
Bladder
Bone and connective tissue
Brain and central nervous system
Breast
Cervix
Colorectal
Gallbladder
Hodgkin’s Disease
Karposi’s Sarcoma
Kidney
Larynx
Leukemia
Liver
Lung
Melanoma
Mesothelioma
Multiple myeloma
Nasopharyngeal
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
Oesophagus
Oral
Ovary
Pancreas
Prostate
Small intestine
Stomach
Testis
Thyroid
Uterus and unspecified
Other
sn206
Recent publications:
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Key publications

Georgakopoulos-Soares I, Morganella S, Jain N, Hemberg M, Nik-Zainal S.
Noncanonical secondary structures arising from non-B DNA motifs are determinants of mutagenesis.
Genome Res. 2018 Sep;28(9):1264-1271. doi: 10.1101/gr.231688.117. Epub 2018 Aug 13.

Zou X, Owusu M, Harris R, Jackson SP, Loizou J, Nik-Zainal S.
Validating the concept of mutational signatures with isogenic cell models.
Nature Communications 2018 May 1;9(1):1744. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04052-8.

Garaycoechea JI, Crossan GP, Langevin F, Mulderrig L, Louzada S, Yang F, Guilbaud G, Park N, Roerink S, Nik-Zainal S, Stratton MR, Patel KJ.
Alcohol and endogenous aldehydes damage chromosomes and mutate stem cells.
Nature. 2018 Jan 11;553(7687):171-177. doi: 10.1038/nature25154. Epub 2018 Jan 3. PubMed PMID: 29323295.

Zou X, Morganella S, Glodzik D, Davies H, Li Y, Stratton MR, Nik-Zainal S.
Short inverted repeats contribute to localized mutability in human somatic cells. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Nov 2;45(19):11213-11221. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx731.

Nik-Zainal S, Morganella S.
Mutational Signatures in Breast Cancer: The Problem at the DNA Level.
Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Jun 1;23(11):2617-2629. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-16-2810.

Davies H, Morganella S, Purdie CA, Jang SJ, Borgen E, Russnes H, Glodzik D, Zou X, Viari A, Richardson AL, Børresen-Dale AL, Thompson A, Eyfjord JE, Kong G, Stratton MR, Nik-Zainal S.
Whole-Genome Sequencing Reveals Breast Cancers with Mismatch Repair Deficiency.
Cancer research. 2017; 77(18):4755-4762. PubMed PMID: 28904067

Davies H, Glodzik D, Morganella S, et al and Nik-Zainal S.
HRDetect is a predictor of BRCA1 and BRCA2 deficiency based on mutational signatures.
Nature medicine. 2017; 23(4):517-525. PubMed PMID: 28288110

Glodzik D, Morganella S, Davies H, et al and Nik-Zainal S.
A somatic-mutational process recurrently duplicates germline susceptibility loci and tissue-specific super-enhancers in breast cancers.
Nature Genetics. 2017; 49(3):341-348. PubMed PMID: 28112740

Nik-Zainal S, Davies H, Staaf J, et al and Stratton MR.
Landscape of somatic mutations in 560 breast cancer whole-genome sequences. Nature. 2016; 534(7605):47-54. NIHMSID: EMS68344 PubMed [journal] PMID: 27135926, PMCID: PMC4910866

Morganella S, Alexandrov LB, Glodzik D, et al and Nik-Zainal S.
The topography of mutational processes in breast cancer genomes.
Nature communications. 2016; 7:11383. PubMed PMID: 27136393, PMCID: PMC5001788

Rouhani FJ, Nik-Zainal S, Wuster A, Li Y, Conte N, Koike-Yusa H, Kumasaka N, Vallier L, Yusa K, Bradley A.
Mutational History of a Human Cell Lineage from Somatic to Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.
PLoS Genet. 2016 Apr 7;12(4):e1005932. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1005932. eCollection 2016 Apr.

Whole cancer genomes of four breast cancer patients depicting all the mutations present in each of their cancer genomes. From the outermost circle heading inwards: Karyotypic ideogram outermost. Base substitutions next, plotted as rainfall plots (log10 intermutation distance on radial axis, dot colours: blue=C>A, black=C>G, red=C>T, grey=T>A, green=T>C, pink=T>G). Ring with short green lines = insertions, ring with short red lines = deletions. Major copy number allele (green = gain) ring, minor copy number allele ring (pink=loss), Central lines represent rearrangements (green= tandem duplications, pink=deletions, blue=inversions and gray=interchromosomal events. The four patients have different dominant biological abnormalities: from left to right: BRCA1-deficiency, mismatch repair deficiency, APOBEC-related mutagenesis and HER2-amplification