skip to content

Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme

Lavinia Dunsmore

A new methodology, developed by our Cambridge Biosciences DTP alumna, Dr Lavinia Dunsmore, during her PhD, has created a way to avoid the toxicity of some plant-derived cancer-killing drugs by 'masking' their toxicity until they reach their targets, potentially leading to more effective cancer therapies.


Using the new method, the researchers were able to specifically target and kill leukemia cells in mice without causing the severe side effects previously seen in clinical trials.

Dr Lavinia Dunsmore is the first author in the article published in Nature Chemistry, and developed the methodology when completing her PhD in the Bernardes group, Department of Chemistry. The scope of the project was further developed by equal contributors postgraduate student Julie Becher and postdoctoral researcher Dr Enrique Gil de Montes in Cambridge; Dr Claudio Navo, who provided the modelling and theoretical calculations from the Basque Research and Technology Alliance in Spain; and postgraduate student Ana Guerreiro, who performed the in vivo experiments in Portugal.

“With this new ortho-quinone protection technique, a quinone can be linked in a protected form to many different types of targeting groups such as proteins, antibodies, nanoparticles, etcetera, and the linker can be tuned for activation by various enzymes over-expressed in cancer cells," said Dunsmore. "This makes it a general strategy that can be used for many different applications in the future.”

New method for controlled activation of redox-active ortho-quinone molecules


Read more: Department of Chemistry

Publication details:
Dunsmore, L., Navo, C.D., Becher, J. et al. Controlled masking and targeted release of redox-cycling ortho-quinones via a C–C bond-cleaving 1,6-elimination. Nat. Chem. 14, 754–765 (2022).


Latest news

DTP student, Natalie Wallis, completes PIPs placement working with First Nations communities in Canada.

28 October 2022

As part of the BBSRC DTP programme, Natalie successfully completed her twelve-week Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS). Natalie made the most of the scheme by taking the opportunity to do a PIPs abroad. She conducted her internship in British Columbia, Canada.

BBSRC student meets with BioNTech co-founders Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci during their visit to Cambridge

16 October 2022

BioNTech founders, Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci, visited Cambridge to give the annual Milstein Lecture at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology. During their visit, Sabila Chilaeva (BBSRC DTP 2019 Cohort) had the opportunity to have lunch with them.

Welcome to the new 2022 SBS DTP cohort!

7 October 2022

We are very pleased to welcome the new 2022 SBS DTP students to Cambridge. This was a great opportunity to meet in-person with students after almost 2 years of online induction events.