Our research focus

Epigenetic Therapy

We have found that a group of enzymes called histone deacetylases (HDACs) are required for colon cancer cell growth. We have also found that drugs which block these enzymes induce the differentiation and death of colon cancer cells. We are currently working on ways to further improve the anti-tumour activity of these drugs by combining them with existing therapies, in order to develop a new treatment for colon cancer patients.

Differentiation Therapy

Our laboratory also investigates the transcriptional mechanisms by which cellular and tissue differentiation is disturbed during colorectal tumorigenesis. We have identified a number of key transcription factors which are deregulated during this process, and we are using this information to investigate ways differentiation can be reprogrammed in tumour cells.

Discovery of biomarkers to targeted therapies

Through access to clinical trial samples provided by our long-term collaborator A/Prof Niall Tebbutt, our laboratory has a translational research program aimed at discovering the biomarkers predictive response to targeted therapies in gastrointestinal cancers. Agents we are investigating include anti-angiogenic therapeutics (avastin), EGFR inhibitors (cetuximab), BRAF inhibitors and mTOR inhibitors, in the treatment of colorectal cancer, gastric cancer and cholangiocarcinoma.

Fast facts

A small, functional unit of our DNA, containing the information, or “instructions” to produce other functional units, such as proteins.

The process the cell uses to transfer the information contained within the DNA into a format which can be used to inform the production of proteins.

Cancer is a genetic disease. When a gene is mutated, the gene may become unable to provide the right information and instructions to the proteins it informs. The cell is therefore unable to perform its proper job. This can lead to cancer.

Molecules consisting of amino acids, which the cells in the human body need to function properly. Each cell may have thousands of different proteins, each with its own instructions for that cell or those with which it interacts. When the proteins work together they ensure the cell does its job.

Recent publications

American Journal of Physiology

Intestinal-specific Hdac3 deletion increases susceptibility to colitis and small intestinal tumor development in mice fed a high-fat diet

DOI: 10.1152/ajpgi.00160.2023

6 November 2023

View abstract
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

Genotype-Tailored ERK/MAPK Pathway and HDAC Inhibition Rewires the Apoptotic Rheostat to Trigger Colorectal Cancer Cell Death

DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-22-0101

3 January 2023

View abstract
Cell Death & Differentiation

Epithelial de-differentiation triggered by co-ordinate epigenetic inactivation of the EHF and CDX1 transcription factors drives colorectal cancer progression

DOI: 10.1038/s41418-022-01016-w

23 May 2022

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Prof John Mariadason - Head, Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory Publications
  • Fiona Chionh - Clinician Scientist | Postdoctoral Research Fellow  Publications
  • Niall Tebbutt - Honorary Clinician
  • David Williams - Honorary Clinician
  • Ian Luk - Research Scientist Publications
  • Kaveh Baghaei - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Laura Jenkins - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Camilla Reehorst - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Rebecca Nightingale - Research Assistant
  • Stan Kacmarczyk - Honorary
  • David Lau - Honorary
  • Kristen Needham - PhD Student
  • Biswadeep Sen - PhD Student
  • Charles Uy - PhD Student
  • Natalia Vukelic -  PhD Student
  • Jack Collin - Honours Student