Dr Laura Matthews

Dr Laura Matthews


Laura graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc in Neuroscience and began a PhD in Endocrine Sciences Research Group under the supervision of Professors Melissa Westwood and Michael Taggart. After completing her PhD, Laura moved to the laboratory of Professor David Ray in the Centre for Molecular Medicine at the University of Manchester. As a post-doctoral research associate Laura was awarded a Career Development Grant from the Society for Endocrinology in 2009, then a University of Manchester Stepping Stones Fellowship in 2010. Laura moved to the University of Leeds in 2016 under the mentorship of Professors Graham Cook and Paul Stewart.

Research interests

Laura leads the Nuclear Receptor research group. Laura's research investigates the roles of Nuclear Receptors (NRs) in health and disease, with a particular focus on NR function in cancer.

Laura Matthews


NRs are ligand-regulated transcription factors that are activated by hormones, lipid-soluble factors and metabolites. Upon ligand binding, NRs undergo a conformational switch which changes the protein interaction surface, exposing nuclear localization signals and driving translocation into the nucleus. Once in the nucleus NRs can bind chromatin directly or tether to other DNA bound transcription factors, then recruit transcriptional coregulators and chromatin remodelers to modulate gene transcription – and in turn bring about changes in cell function. NRs are therefore powerful sensors of the cellular environment.

Laura Matthews


As NRs are master regulators of cell fate, metabolism and immune function, it is not surprising that most types of cancer have altered NR activity. NRs are ligand-activated transcription factors, and so their endogenous ligands provide the perfect template to design high affinity synthetic NR modulators, which makes them tractable drug targets for cancer therapy. Indeed, approximately 30% of all new drug leads target NRs. Laura’s research aims to unravel the complex mechanisms by which NRs mediate their cellular effects, define how changes in NR function drive various cancers, and also how NRs can be better targeted to treat cancer – particularly in aggressive Brain (Glioblastoma) and Breast (Triple Negative) cancers.

Laura Matthews


Research group 



Ongoing research projects are funded by MRC, Wellcome Trust, Breast Cancer UK, the Society for Endocrinology and Brain Tumour Research and Support

Laura Matthews


Student education

Laura teaches on BSc (BIOL2210; BIOL2301; BIOL3215; BMSC3301; BLGY3345), MRes (MEDS5101) and MSc (MEDM5101; MEDM5121) modules as a lecturer, tutor or research project supervisor. Laura also supervises undergraduate summer placement students and research interns. Please contact her directly for details of how to apply.

Research groups and institutes

  • Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's
  • Cancer
  • Brain Cancer Research Group
  • Breast Cancer Research Group
  • Infection and Immunity
  • Rare Diseases & Genetics

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>