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 and maintains an honorary post at the University of Manchester.

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. 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 by tethering to other DNA bound transcription factors, then recruits coactivator or corepressor proteins and chromatin remodelers to activate or inhibit transcription – and in turn bring about changes in cell function. 

NRs are master regulators of cell fate, metabolism and immune function. It is therefore not surprising that most types of cancer have altered NR activity. As NRs are ligand-activated transcription factors, 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 worldwide 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.

Research group 


  • Chloe Adams, Wellcome and SfE Summer Intern 2019, University of Leeds
  • Matthew Chivers, Summer Intern 2019, University of Leeds
  • Charlie Menagh, Summer Intern 2019, University of Leeds
  • Olakunle Akanji, MSc awarded 2019, University of Leeds
  • Alex Schofield, BSc awarded 2019, University of Leeds 
  • Sophie Williams, BSc awarded 2019, University of Leeds 
  • Stephen Kershaw, PhD awarded 2018, University of Manchester 
  • Helena Bean, MSc awarded 2018, University of Leeds 
  • Wiktoria Parol, Summer Intern 2018, University of Leeds
  • Alice Cheesbrough, Summer Intern 2018, University of Leeds
  • Pauline Pfänder, Visiting Erasmus student 2018, University of Leeds
  • Lauren Roberts, MSc awarded 2017, University of Leeds  
  • Carolin Sauer, BSc awarded 2017, University of Manchester  
  • Giorgio Caratti, PhD awarded 2017, University of Manchester  
  • Anna Mannion-Jones, MPhil awarded 2014, University of Manchester  
  • Nan Yang, MD awarded 2013, University of Manchester  
  • David Morgan, PhD awarded 2013, University of Manchester  
  • Peter Trebble, PhD awarded 2013, University of Manchester  


Ongoing research projects are funded by MRC, Wellcome Trust, Breast Cancer UK and the Society for Endocrinology.

Student education

Laura teaches on BSc (BIOL2210; BIOL2301; BIOL3215; BMSC3301; BLGY3345), MRes (MEDS5101) and MSc (MEDM5101; MEDM5121) programmes as a lecturer, tutor or research project supervisor. Laura also supervises undergraduate summer placement students and interns who want research experience. 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
  • Infection and Immunity
  • Immunity and inflammation

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>
    <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/213-investigating-stress-hormone-modulators-in-breast-cancer-treatment">Investigating stress hormone modulators in breast cancer treatment</a></li>