PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Peter Zarzour

Cytosine Modifications in the Epigenetic Regulation of Colonic Stem Cell Differentiation

Award:  Peter is a recipient of a three-year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisors: Professor Robyn Ward, Clinical Associate Dean and Head, Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW;

Dr Luke Hesson, Molecular and Cellular Oncology Laboratory Team Leader, Lowy Cancer Research Centre

Cancer cells and stem cells share similar properties, and the more stem cell-like a cancer becomes, the worse prognosis it has. Going on the hypothesis that cancers hijack the mechanisms that stem cells use to activate “stemness” genes, Peter is studying the epigenetics of stem cell differentiation in the colon to define normality, so that we can then search for similar patterns in colorectal cancer. To do this, Peter aims to use next generation sequencing technologies to assess the expression and various promoter cytosine modifications of different classes of genes in stem cell and differentiated cell populations from colonic epithelium.


What translational link does your research have to cancer care?

A better understanding of the epigenetic mechanisms that drive normal events in colonic tissue and their implications for colorectal cancer can provide new insights into the progression of this disease. The colonic stem cell’s epigenetic signature may be indicative of prognosis, and it may also aid with the design and application of new therapies that target the epigenome.


“As a multidisciplinary network, the TCRN provides expertise from both clinicians and scientist; for example, my supervisors represent both professional backgrounds. These perspectives will better direct my research towards more useful applications. It also provides a springboard to share my work with the wider community.”

Peter commenced his second year of PhD studies at the Prince of Wales Clinical School, UNSW in 2012. 

 TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up awardee Peter Zarzour