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Cancer Cell Survival and Migration Group

Unit(s) of assessment: Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy

Research theme: Health and Wellbeing

School: School of Science and Technology


Cancer cell UV image

Dr Coutts is an Independent Cancer Researcher whose aim is to focuses on the understanding of how cell survival pathways link to disease progression as well as nuclear processes such as transcription during the stress response. Tumour growth is achieved by overriding cell cycle control and bypassing cell death mechanisms. Mechanisms influencing cell survival such as apoptosis and autophagy are key determinants of cell fate during stress. Moreover, during tumour progression, the acquisition of metastatic potential is the most devastating event in human cancer with metastatic disease the cause of 90% of cancer deaths.

Cancer cells adapt and respond to their microenvironment as well as therapeutic and metabolic stressors which ultimately modulate cellular outcomes. Importantly, understanding how the cell integrates a variety of signals to affect cell fate is clinically and therapeutically relevant and a poorly understood process. Our research aims to identify and understand new pathways regulating cancer cell fate during the stress response, in particular how cells regulate gene expression and signalling pathways to influence cell survival and motility.

cell survival cycle image

Current key research areas:

1. Identification of novel signalling pathways influencing cell motility and invasion and understanding how cytoskeletal events are integrated with nuclear events.

2. Understanding factors that influence the regulation of cell survival and death mechanisms such as autophagy and apoptosis.

3. Role of transcriptional control and nuclear events in cell fate during the stress response.


Dr Coutts collaborates with the following:

Dr Isabel Pires, Head of Hypoxia and Tumour microenvironment lab (University of Hull, UK)

Prof Nick La Thangue, Professor of Cancer Biology (University of Oxford, UK)

Dr Sandra Maniam, (University of Putra, Malaysia)

Prof Udo Oppermann, Professor of Molecular Biology (University of Oxford, UK)


Functional interplay between E2F7 and ribosomal rRNA gene transcription regulates protein synthesis. Coutts AS, Munro S, La Thangue NB. (2018). Cell Death Dis, 9 (5): 577

Actin nucleation by WH2 domains at the autophagosome. Coutts AS, La Thangue NB.(2015). Nature Communication, 6: 7888

Cofactor Strap regulates oxidative phosphorylation and mitochondrial p53 activity through ATP synthase. Maniam S, Coutts AS, Stratford MR, McGouran J, Kessler B, La Thangue NB. (2015). Cell Death Differ, 22:156-163.

E2F-7 couples DNA-damage dependent transcription with the DNA repair process. Zalmas LP, Coutts AS, Helleday T, La Thangue NB. (2013). Cell Cycle, 12:3037-3051.

Hypoxia-driven cell motility reflects the interplay between JMY and HIF-1a. Coutts AS, Pires IM, Weston L, Buffa FM, Milani M, Li JL, Harris AL, Hammond EL, La Thangue NB.(2011). Oncogene 30 (48): 4835-4842.

A transcription co-factor integrates cell adhesion and motility with the p53 response. Coutts AS, Weston L, La Thangue NB.(2009). PNAS, 106 (47): 19872-19877.


The laboratory of Dr Coutts currently houses an xCelligence RTCA DP real-time cell analyser and BD C6 Accuri flow cytometer. We also have access within the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre to instrumentation to facilitate multi-omic analyses including gene expression micro-array, Nanostring platform, mass spectrometers and laser capture microdissection.