Dr Suzanne M Johnson BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD


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Suzanne is a lecturer in the Division of Cancer Sciences and Division lead for Social Responsibility.  With a background in basic and translational cancer research, Suzanne is Programme Director developing a new online Masters programme in Transformative Oncology with the University of Manchester Worldwide and Unit Lead for Solid Tumours (2) for the STP Cancer Genomics course.



Following a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences and MSc in Molecular Pathology and Toxicology, Suzanne achieved her PhD in Breast Cancer in Younger Women (2002) under the supervision of Profs Jacqui Shaw and Rosemary Walker at the University of Leicester. 

Suzanne’s first appointment was as Investigator Scientist at the MRC Toxicology Unit moving to the Division of Reproductive Sciences at the University of Leicester.  Investigating the molecular mechanisms by which oestradiol and the Selective Oestrogen Receptor Modulator tamoxifen exert their tissue specific effects by assessment of receptor involvement and agonist/antagonist behaviour, proliferative response and subsequent transcription of target genes.

Suzanne joined the University of Manchester in 2007 as a post-doctoral research associate in Dr John Burthem’s research group where she created a collection of IgM-secreting hetero-hybridomas derived from a range of clinical cases of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia that had defined immunoglobulin gene rearrangement. This enabled the harvest of CLL-Ig in native IgM form for further investigation including tissue microarray to identify antigen.

In 2010, Suzanne joined Prof Vaskar Saha’s research group based at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research.  Here she developed a strong interest in the emerging field of extracellular vesicle (EV) research; characterising Leukaemic cell derived extracellular vesicles and investigating their potential role in intracellular communication within the bone marrow microenvironment and exploring how vesicle uptake might elicit phenotypic change. In 2015/16 Suzanne undertook a 50% secondment to support the Institute of Cancer Sciences Prof Sir Salvador Moncada as a project manager.  Suzanne published 2 first author papers, contributed to 5 others and was lead applicant on an MRC Proximity to Discovery Relationship Incubator Award. In 2017 Suzanne was awarded a Recognising and Rewarding Exceptional Performance Award.

Continuing her interest in the potential of EVs in cancer-normal cell communication and as potential reservoirs of biomarkers for cancer early detection, Suzanne joined Dr Martin McCabe to investigate the potential role of EVs in paediatric brain tumours, particularly medulloblastoma.  Presenting her research internationally, Suzanne secured funding from CRUK Early Detection Primer Award as lead applicant. Suzanne was promoted to Research Fellow in August 2019.

In March 2020 Suzanne was appointed as Lecturer and Programme Director for the new online UMW MSc Transformative Oncology.

Social responsibility

As the Lead for Social Responsibility (SR) for the Division of Cancer Sciences, I have a position on the Senior Management Team where I seek to embed SR values across all our Teaching, Learning and Research activities.  The MSc Transformative Oncology Units include elements on understanding patient’s perspective, the importance of individualised communication and embracing diversity to boost understanding of underlying genetic differences as we move toward personalised medicine.

I lead dynamic DCS SR Team comprising colleagues with broad backgrounds and roles within the Division, who contribute to rich discussions around environmental sustainability, gender and health inequity, effective recruitment, eliminating bias and engaging with communities including schools to inspire the next generation. We have:

  • Established the Oglesby Cancer Research Building Green Impact Team who seek innovative ways to reduce single use plastics and improve recycling routes lead by Sam Littler
  • Produced a video and visual biographies supplied to Widening Participation schools and engaged in a Live zoom careers consultation with over 100 Year 10 students with the MCRC
  • Delivered a workshop entitled Diversifying our Division aimed at encouraging self-reflection around bias, experiences of bullying and ways to embed accountability, which will directly influence the DCS strategy
  • Developed a public engagement tool to demonstrate liquid biopsies which is now part of a national engagement tool kit (CRUK)
  • Organised patient engagement opportunities with students to inform their projects and build context and appreciation for their learning on the Cancer Biology and Radiotherapy Physics course.

I work closely with researchers within the Division of Cancer Sciences and the Cancer Domain, where we actively engage and involve the public and patients in our research through a range of activities including the Community Festival, Science Spectacular and the CRUK Relay for life.  These interactions are vital to help shape and prioritise our research and offer valuable insights and a powerful perspective from outside the lab.

Embedding Social Responsibility: The DCS SR Team seek to

  • Promote all roles within the Division in an equal and inclusive way and actively equalise exposure
  • Advocate for cultural competency training to include use of inclusive language (Teaching, Research and Professional Support staff).
  • Actively record gender/ethnicity balance in all operational tasks – promotions panels, interviews, invited speakers, funding support etc


BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences,

MSc Molecular Pathology & Toxicology,


Researchers into Management, Level 5

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

British Association for Cancer Research

European Association for Cancer Research

International Society of Extracellular Vesicles

UK Society of Extracellular Vesicles

Areas of expertise

Research Networks and Beacons

Biology, Medicine and Health (BMH) Domains

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