Professor Valerie Speirs

Professor Valerie Speirs
BSc (Hons), PhD, FRCPath, FHEA

Chair in Molecular Oncology

Professor Valerie Speirs
Professor Valerie Speirs

Contact Details

The University of Aberdeen Office 4.32, Institute of Medical Sciences (01224 437361)
Lab 4.42, Institute of Medical Sciences


Prof Valerie Speirs obtained a BSc in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen followed by her PhD in Cancer Biology from the University of Glasgow. She became a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 2007 (published works) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Authority. Her scientific career has included spells at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and the universities of Liverpool, Hull and Leeds.

She obtained a Personal Chair in Experimental Pathology & Oncology at the University of Leeds in 2012 and relocated to her alma mater in July 2018 as Chair in Molecular Oncology. Her research portfolio focuses on oestrogen receptor biology, endocrine resistant breast cancer, male breast cancer and developing improved in vitro models of breast cancer to explore the role of the stroma, with funding from sources including: Cancer Research UK, MRC, NC3Rs, Yorkshire Cancer Research, Breast Cancer Now, Breast Cancer Research Trust, Breast Cancer UK, Animal Free Research UK and Friends of Anchor.

As part of a consortium which recognised that scientists required access to human breast tissue to help accelerate research (1,2), she helped established the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank and remains the PI of the Leeds centre, where she holds a visiting professorship. She also established SEARCHBreast, a virtual resource aimed at sharing materials which are often surplus following animal studies on breast cancer, thus reducing the numbers of animals used in research.

She is a member of the National Cancer Research Institute’s Cellular Molecular Pathology (CM-Path) initiative, representing the Discovery work stream which investigates the biology of cancer and its treatments and is also on the biobanking subgroup. She is honorary secretary for the British Association for Cancer Research, which promotes the advance of research and exchange of information in all aspects of cancer.

Onping work includes establishing the Aberdeen Cancer Centre, bringing together a team of scientists and clinicians working collaboratively to delivering patient-centered research. This bench to bedside approach aims to translate new laboratory findings into the clinic with the goal of directly improving patient outcomes.

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Research Interests

Research in my group focuses mainly on investigating the biology of breast cancer, using tissue-based approaches to understand the disease. We study biomarkers and how these might influence clinical outcome, oestrogen receptor biology (in particular the regulation and expression of oestrogen receptor β) and are exploring the breast cancer microenvironment, in particular tumour-stroma interactions, and how this might be influenced by endocrine disrupting agents, including oestrogenic substances found in the environment.

Breast cancer affects both genders and we have a long-standing interest in male breast cancer, having accrued one of the largest collections in the world, available as tissue microarrays.

We have developed several 3D in vitro models of breast cancer and continue to improve these to use as tools in our research.

Our lab is on the same campus as the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, which allows us direct access to clincial samples to use in our work. As a results we work closely with clinicians, including pathologists, surgeons, radiologist, oncologists and often host medical students for intercalated or summer projects.



Current Research

Examining how endocrine disrupting agents may modulate activity of fibroblasts generated from breast tissue of high and low mammographic density

Understanding the biology of male breast cancer

Generating a 3D cell culture model to test the efficacy of Affimers in the inhibition of HER2+ breast cancer cell growth

Investigating the breast cancer microenviroment



Prof Louise Jones, Barts Cancer  Institute, London

Dr Georgia Mavria, University of Leeds

Dr Darren Tomlinson, University of Leeds

Prof Cathy Merry, University of Nottingham

Research Grants

Research in my laboratory is currently supported by:

  • Animal Free Research UK
  • Breast Cancer Now
  • Breast Cancer UK
  • NC3Rs
  • Pathological Society

Teaching Responsibilities


PA3802: Mechanisms of Disease & Principles of Chemotherapy

BC4314:  Biochemistry Option 2

Further Info

Postgraduate study

Applications from fully funded International postgraduate students who fulfil both the entry and English language criteria for study at the University of Aberdeen to work on projects related to cancer biology are welcome throughout the year. Please email me if you are interested.