A/Prof Delphine Merino

Head, Tumour Progression And Heterogeneity Laboratory

The ONJ Cancer Centre is an extremely stimulating environment where patients, scientists, nurses and clinicians are working together towards the same objective – improving patients’ health and wellness. 

I am fascinated by the mechanisms driving the life/death switch in cells. Cancer cells are particularly resistant to cell death, which allows them to invade different parts of the body, survive the attack of the immune system, and resist various treatments. The challenge for us as scientists is to find a drug which, when administered at the right dose, will kill cancer cells, without affecting normal cells.

My laboratory is focused on breast cancer metastasis. My team is trying to identify, within patients’ tumours, the cells which will escape, survive in the lymphatic or blood system, and successfully colonise distant organs. Our aim is to then identify the biological features of the cells which are most likely to form clinically relevant macro-metastasis. We want to understand how these cells interact with their microenvironment and whether they differ between different metastatic sites.

Ultimately, our objective is to identify which drugs should be used to target cells responsible for tumour recurrence, at local or distant sites, to stop the invasion, release the pain associated with their growth, and improve the outcomes of patients with breast cancer.

It will also be important to find a way to predict which women will respond best to these therapies and I am particularly interested in using liquid biopsies to achieve this aim.