Professor Jason Parsons BSc, PhD

Professor Jason Parsons, Professor of Radiobiology

Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
Professor of Radiobiology

Contact details

IBR West
Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT

Professor Jason Parsons is the Chair of Radiobiology across the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences in the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and the School of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

A particular interest of the Parsons Group is to examine the molecular and cellular effects of different forms of radiotherapy (ionising radiation) on specific tumour models, with a focus on head and neck cancers and those of the adult brain (glioblastoma). This includes translational research examining the impact of conventional X-ray radiation, proton beam therapy and other particle ions with increasing ionisation densities (linear energy transfer, LET), utilising the unique radiation facilities present in Birmingham including the MC40 cyclotron.  We are also exploring the impact of biological (hypoxia) and physical (dose rate delivery, FLASH) factors on radiobiology, and the identification of novel or targeted drugs that can enhance tumour radiosensitisation in response to the different radiotherapy types. Our long term goal is to utilise our preclinical and translational research for contributing to novel strategies using radiotherapy for enhancing treatment of tumours of the head and neck, and brain. 

Professor Parsons has published >70 peer-reviewed publications and reviews on the topics of radiation biology and DNA damage repair. His is currently Vice-Chair of the Association for Radiation Research (ARR) and is funded by grants from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


  • PhD in Medical Biochemistry, 2000
  • BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry, 1996


Professor Parsons acquired a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biochemistry (1996) and a PhD in Biochemistry (2000) from the University of Birmingham. He then worked as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Cancer Research UK Paterson Institute for Cancer Research in Manchester (2000-2002), and at the Medical Research Council Radiation and Genome Stability Unit in Harwell (2003-2007). He subsequently worked as a Senior Investigator Scientist at the Cancer Research UK/Medical Research Council Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology at the University of Oxford, UK (2008-2012). During his postdoctoral studies, he gained knowledge of the cellular responses to DNA damage induced by ionising radiation, and particularly pioneered novel research identifying molecular mechanisms involving the ubiquitin proteasome pathway that control the levels of key proteins during the repair of DNA base damage and single strand breaks through the Base Excision Repair pathway.

Professor Parsons began his own independent research group in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine at the University of Liverpool (2012), where he was awarded an MRC New Investigator Research Grant. He became Honorary Lead for Radiobiology Research at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre (2019), and then Professor and Chair in Radiation Biology at the University of Liverpool (2022). Here he gained an interest and expertise in proton beam therapy and examining the radiobiology of protons versus photons used in conventional radiotherapy. This research has expanded into identifying the molecular and biological consequences of radiation of increasing ionisation densities (linear energy transfer, LET) on tumour models, including those of the head and neck plus the adult brain (glioblastoma). 

Professor Parsons moved to the University of Birmingham in 2023, as Professor of Radiobiology jointly appointed through the College of Medical and Dental Sciences and the College of Physics and Astronomy. The Parsons Group continues to focus on analysing the molecular and cellular impact of different sources of radiotherapy (photons, protons and particle ions) with varying LET on head and neck and glioblastoma tumour cell models, and ultimately to the identification of strategies using combinatorial drugs/inhibitors leading to the optimisation of the efficacy of radiotherapy in cancer treatment.

Postgraduate supervision

Previous PhD students successfully supervised as primary supervisor:-

  • Cornelia Meisenberg (2008-2012; University of Oxford).
  • Laura Bennett (2013-2017; University of Liverpool).
  • Sarah Williams (2014-2018; University of Liverpool).
  • Jonathan Hughes (2015-2019; University of Liverpool).
  • Eleanor Madders (2017-2021; University of Liverpool).
  • Eirini-Terpsi Vitti (2017-2021; University of Liverpool).

Current PhD students (in Birmingham, unless otherwise stated) as primary supervisor:-

  • Jennifer Antrobus (2019-present University of Liverpool).
  • Sifaddin Konis (2019-present University of Liverpool).
  • Chumin Zhou (2018-present University of Liverpool).
  • Rhianna Hill (2020-present University of Liverpool).
  • Emma Melia (2021-present).
  • George Duffield (2021-present). 

Professor Parsons is interested in supervising doctoral research students in the following areas:-

  • The radiobiology of protons and particle ions in tumour cell models.
  • Discovering novel cellular drug targets that can lead to enhanced tumour cell radiosensitisation.
  • The impact of hypoxia in driving radioresistance of tumours and strategies to overcome this.
  • The molecular and cellular effect of ultra-high dose rate (FLASH) radiotherapy.     

If you are interested in studying any of these subject areas, please contact Professor Parsons directly, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email


Radiotherapy is used to treat ~50 % of all human cancers, however resistance to treatment and acute or long-term adverse side effects remain a major problem. Conventional X-ray (photon) radiotherapy is largely utilised for solid tumours, including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) and those of the adult brain (glioblastoma, GBM), although there is increasing interest in particle ion therapy (such as protons) that can more precisely deliver the radiation dose to the tumour and minimise the effects to the associated normal tissues and organs at risk. However, there is still biological and clinical uncertainty with protons and other particle ions due to the increased ionisation densities (linear energy transfer, LET) that can have contrasting effects on cells and tissues compared to conventional photon radiotherapy.

Current projects include:-

  • Comparing the radiobiology of photons, protons and particle ions (with increasing LET) in HNSCC and GBM cell models.
  • Discovering novel cellular targets for drugs/inhibitors that can enhance the radiosensitivity of HNSCC and GBM tumour cells to different types of radiotherapy.
  • Examining the impact of hypoxia in driving radioresistance of HNSCC and GBM tumour cell models, and devising novel strategies using combinatorial treatments to overcome this.
  • Understanding the radiobiology of ultra-high dose rate (FLASH) radiotherapy and biological factors leading to the “FLASH” effect.

Other activities

  • Vice-Chair of the Association for Radiation Research (ARR) (2022-present).
  • Member of the Scientific Evaluation Committee of the proposals for “Multi-thematic and multi-disciplinary research Reducing Radiation Therapy Side-Effects and Improving Quality of Life” organized by the French National Cancer Institute (INCa) (2022-present).
  • Scientific Member of the UK Ion Therapy Research Facility (ITRF) Advisory Committee (2021-present).
  • Associate Editor for Frontiers in Oncology (2021-present)
  • Editorial Board Member of Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine (2020-present).
  • Editorial Board Member of Radiation (2020-present).
  • Scientific Committee Member of the Association for Radiation Research (ARR) (2020-present).
  • Member of the Scientific Evaluation Committee of the proposals for “Cancer Biology and Basic Sciences” organized by the French National Cancer Institute (INCa) (2020-present).
  • General Member of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (CTRad) (2019-present).
  • Member of the Centre for Clinical Application of Particles (CCAP) (2019-present).
  • Editorial Board Member of Cancers (2019-present).
  • Member of the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) (2018-present).
  • Member of the Association for Radiation Research (ARR) (2017-present).
  • Full member of the Radiation Research Society (RRS) (2008-present).


Recent publications


Hill, RM, Li, C, Hughes, JR, Rocha, S, Grundy, GJ & Parsons, JL 2024, 'Autophagy is the main driver of radioresistance of HNSCC cells in mild hypoxia', Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, vol. 28, no. 12, e18482.

Fabbrizi, MR, Doggett, TJ, Hughes, JR, Melia, E, Dufficy, ER, Hill, RM, Goula, A, Phoenix, B & Parsons, JL 2024, 'Inhibition of key DNA double strand break repair protein kinases enhances radiosensitivity of head and neck cancer cells to X-ray and proton irradiation', Cell Death Discovery, vol. 10, no. 1, 282.

Saleh, H, Liloglou, T, Rigden, DJ, Parsons, JL & Grundy, GJ 2024, 'KH-like Domains in PARP9/DTX3L and PARP14 Coordinate Protein–Protein Interactions to Promote Cancer Cell Survival', Journal of Molecular Biology, vol. 436, no. 4, 168434.

Fowler, H, Clifford, RE, Bowden, D, Sutton, PA, Govindarajah, N, Fok, M, Glenn, M, Wall, M, Rubbi, C, Buczacki, SJA, Mandal, A, Francies, H, Parsons, JL & Vimalachandran, D 2024, 'Myoferlin: a potential marker of response to radiotherapy and survival in locally advanced rectal cancer', International Journal of Radiation: Oncology - Biology - Physics .

Fabbrizi, MR, Nickson, CM, Hughes, JR, Robinson, EA, Vaidya, K, Rubbi, CP, Kacperek, A, Bryant, HE, Helleday, T & Parsons, J 2024, 'Targeting OGG1 and PARG radiosensitises head and neck cancer cells to high-LET protons through complex DNA damage persistence', Cell Death and Disease, vol. 15, no. 2, 150.

Guerra Liberal, FDC, Parsons, JL & McMahon, SJ 2023, 'Most DNA repair defects do not modify the relationship between relative biological effectiveness and linear energy transfer in CRISPR‐edited cells', Medical Physics.

Mellone, M, Piotrowska, K, Venturi, G, James, L, Bzura, A, Lopez, MA, James, S, Wang, C, Ellis, MJ, Hanley, CJ, Buckingham, JF, Cox, KL, Hughes, G, Valge-Archer, V, King, EV, Beers, SA, Jaquet, V, Jones, GDD, Savelyeva, N, Sayan, E, Parsons, JL, Durant, S & Thomas, GJ 2022, 'ATM regulates differentiation of myofibroblastic cancer-associated fibroblasts and can be targeted to overcome immunotherapy resistance', Cancer Research, vol. 82, no. 24, pp. 4571-4585.

Fabbrizi, MR & Parsons, JL 2022, 'Cell death mechanisms in head and neck cancer cells in response to low and high-LET radiation', Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine, vol. 24, e2.

Zhou, C, Fabbrizi, MR, Hughes, JR, Grundy, GJ & Parsons, JL 2022, 'Effectiveness of PARP inhibition in enhancing the radiosensitivity of 3D spheroids of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma', Frontiers in Oncology, vol. 12, 940377.

Antrobus, J & Parsons, J 2022, 'Histone deacetylases and their potential as targets to enhance tumour radiosensitisation', Radiation, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 149-167.

Review article

Melia, E & Parsons, JL 2023, 'DNA damage and repair dependencies of ionising radiation modalities', Bioscience Reports, vol. 43, no. 10, BSR20222586.

Wilkinson, B, Hill, MA & Parsons, JL 2023, 'The Cellular Response to Complex DNA Damage Induced by Ionising Radiation', International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 24, no. 5, 4920.

Hill, RM, Fok, M, Grundy, G, Parsons, JL & Rocha, S 2023, 'The role of autophagy in hypoxia-induced radioresistance', Radiotherapy & Oncology, vol. 189, 109951.

Aiyappa-Maudsley, R, Chalmers, AJ & Parsons, JL 2022, 'Factors affecting the radiation response in glioblastoma', Neuro-oncology advances, vol. 4, no. 1, vdac156.

Hill, RM, Rocha, S & Parsons, JL 2022, 'Overcoming the impact of hypoxia in driving radiotherapy resistance in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma', Cancers, vol. 14, no. 17, 4130.

View all publications in research portal