Receptor Biology Laboratory

Our research focus

Eph receptors

Eph receptors are cell surface proteins that guide cell migration by binding to other cell-bound proteins (ephrins) on adjacent cells, thereby controlling cell-cell adhesion. Ephs coordinate cell movement during normal development of tissue and organ boundaries, and the vascular and neural networks. They are generally scarce in adults but reappear in cancers, where they are often on early ‘progenitor’ cell types, associated with blood vessel formation, and tumour cell invasion and spread.

EphA3 is a particular focus, which we investigate in tumour models, using ‘knock-down’ mice or by treatment with a specific antibody we helped develop, with the aid of drug payloads to specifically target the tumour microenvironment.

ADAM metalloproteases

ADAM metalloproteases (or ADAMs) are cell membrane-bound proteases that shed a range of other membrane proteins, regulating the activity of diverse cell surface receptors. These include Ephs and other receptors controlling cancer cell growth, drug resistance, and invasion and spread to other tissues. ADAMs also play an important role in the tumour microenvironment and in inflammation.

ADAM10 and 17 are of particular interest and we are investigating their function in tumours, as well as developing antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates as potential new therapies.

Fast facts

Cell surface (or membrane) receptors are proteins attached to a cell’s exterior which can receive external signals, usually by binding with another protein. The bound receptors then send signals into the cell to modify its behaviour, including movement, proliferation and survival.

They are distinctive in that they bind to proteins attached to adjacent cells. This allows them to control cell adhesion, migration and invasion. They are important in normal embryonic development but reappear in certain cell types in tumours and their surrounding environment, including new tumour blood vessels, which support tumour growth and spread.

A protease is a protein which cuts other proteins in a very controlled manner. ADAMs are a type of cell surface metalloprotease (‘metallo’ refers to their dependence on metal ions). ADAM10 and 17 control the activity of various cell surface receptors and are essential in normal cellular development. However they become overly active in tumours and their surrounding environment by supporting tumour growth, survival and drug resistance.

Recent publications

Journal of Experimental Medicine

An activated form of ADAM10 is tumor selective and regulates cancer stem-like cells and tumor growth.
DOI: 10.1084/jem.20151095

View abstract
Cancer Research

Targeting EphA3 inhibits cancer growth by disrupting the tumor stromal microenvironment.

DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-14-0218

View abstract
Cell

Adam meets Eph: an ADAM substrate recognition module acts as a molecular switch for ephrin cleavage in trans.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2005.08.014

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers


Tumour Targeting Laboratory

Our research focus

Targeting Strategies in Cancer

We have identified a series of molecules selectively expressed on cancer cells, and in the tumour microenvironment, that can be targeted for cancer therapy. This includes conformationally exposed receptor epitopes, such as found on the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and which led to the development of mAb806 and our first-in-human trials of this molecule. Our research findings have provided a new paradigm in antibody-based targeting and therapy of solid tumours. This work has expanded to incorporate structure-function studies of additional novel antibodies we have developed that target cell surface receptors and tumour microenvironment in tumours, as well as investigating mechanisms of resistance to antibody therapeutics, and targeting key molecules involved in sustaining the tumour microenvironment.

Antibody Engineering

We have developed techniques for generation and humanisation of antibodies. Recent molecular engineering, structural and modelling approaches in our laboratory have defined novel Fc:FcRn and Fc:FcγR interactions, which result in improved immune effector function and bioavailability of humanised antibodies. We have also developed strategies to deliver payloads specifically to tumours through conjugation of drugs, toxins and isotopes to recombinant antibodies, peptides and nanoparticles, both in preclinical models and more recently in clinical trials in cancer patients. These studies are showing encouraging results in patients with cancers of the brain, colon and breast, as well as other solid tumours.

Tumour Payload Delivery

The development of recombinant antibodies for cancer therapy has emerged as one of the most promising areas in oncology therapeutics, both as single agents, and for payload delivery. The concept of being able to deliver toxins through antibody-drug conjugates, or radiotherapy by antibody-radioisotope conjugates targeting the payload to sites of disease, are exciting and promising approaches that we are exploring preclinically and clinically with antibodies developed in our laboratory.

Novel Metabolic Tracers

An exciting recent development in the molecular imaging of cancer comes from the identification of critical biochemical pathways responsible for tumour growth and metastasis, and immune targets which can be exploited for therapy, which can be imaged with novel SPECT and positron emission tomography (PET) tracers. Taking the discovery of novel metabolic tracers in the laboratory to clinical trials is a major focus of our molecular imaging / PET research program and is leading to a deeper understanding of tumour biology and therapy response.

Fast facts

An immune protein normally produced within the body, that can recognise and eliminate foreign substances that can cause tissue damage.

Cancer scientists are able to develop and introduce antibodies into the body. They can be designed to recognise and target a specific feature of the tumour to inhibit or stop tumour growth.

Molecular imaging technologies which allow researchers to see whether treatments are effectively targeting a tumour, and how a tumour responds to treatment.

Recent publications

Molecular Cancer Therapeutics

Characterization of ABT-806, a Humanized Tumor-Specific Anti-EGFR Monoclonal Antibody.

DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-14-0820

View abstract
Journal of Clinical Oncology 

Phase I Imaging and Pharmacodynamic Trial of CS-1008 in Patients With Metastatic Colorectal Cancer.

DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2014.60.4256

View abstract
Nature Medicine

Microenvironmental control of breast cancer subtype elicited through paracrine platelet-derived growth factor-CC signaling.

DOI: 10.1038/nm.4494

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Prof Andrew Scott AM - Head, Tumour Targeting Program | Head, Tumour Targeting Laboratory | Co-Director, Centre for Research Excellence in Brain Cancer | Director, Department Of Molecular Imaging And Therapy, Austin Health   Publications
  • Hui Gan - Clinical Research Lead | Clinician Scientist | Co-Director, Centre for Research Excellence in Brain Cancer | Director, Cancer Clinical Trials Centre, Austin Health  Publications
  • Zhanqi Liu - Associate Investigator
  • Ingrid Burvenich - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Christian Wichmann - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Alexander Mcdonald - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Sagun Parakh - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Benjamin Gloria - Senior Production Scientist Publications
  • Laura Allan - Senior Research Officer
  • Diana Cao - Senior Research Officer
  • Nancy Guo - Senior Research Officer Publications
  • Nhi Huynh - Senior Research Officer
  • Angela Rigopoulos - Senior Research Officer Publications

  • Eliza Hawkes - Clinician Scientist Publications
  • Umbreen Hafeez - PhD Student
  • Sid Menon - PhD Student
  • Fiona Scott - Program Manager Publications
  • Kerryn Westcott - Scientific Project Officer Publications
  • Uwe Ackermann - Senior Radiochemist, Department of Medical Imaging & Therapy, Austin Health (Honorary)
  • Farshad Foroudi - Director Radiation Oncology, Austin Health (Honorary) Publications
  • Sze-Ting Lee, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Department of Medical Imaging & Therapy, Austin Health (Honorary) Publications
  • Prof Michael McKay, Senior Researcher (Honorary) Publications


Cancer Single Cell Genomics Laboratory

Our research focus

Our goal is to understand cancer at a single cell level to advance cancer biomarker discovery and translation

Our laboratory specialises in using innovative single cell techniques to deconstruct tissue samples and reveal the genetic architecture of individual cells. This allows us to study heterogeneity in a range of cancers, including breast cancer, and address key biological questions:

  • How intra-tumoural heterogeneity drives tumour progression and metastasis in aggressive cancers?
  • What role do the tumour microenvironment play during metastasis?
  • How can we effectively monitor metastatic disease progression and prevent cancer recurrence?
  • Which premalignant molecular alterations are involved in breast tumorigenesis and can rare aberrant cell populations be identified for target biomarker discovery?
  • How single cell transcriptomics can be utilised to improve personalised treatment for cancer patients?

Fast facts

Metastasis refers to a disease stage when cancer cells break away and spread beyond the primary tumour to distant sites, with variable locations and volumes of organ involvement.

Created by a dynamic micro-community of cancer cells and surrounding blood, immune and stromal cells. Interactions between resident cell types can influence tumour progression and patient response to cancer treatment.

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Dr Bhupinder Pal – Head, Cancer Single Cell Genomics Laboratory Publications
  • Paula Fuge-Larsen - Translational Research Project Officer
  • Shalini Guleria - PhD Student
  • Jordan Wilcox - Research Assistant


Tumour Progression and Heterogeneity Laboratory

Our research focus

Isolation and characterisation of circulating tumour cells

Liquid biopsies, which capture circulating tumour cells in the blood, are a useful, non-invasive way of monitoring tumour spread and drug response. Our laboratory studies the diversity and biological properties of cancer cells captured in blood. This helps improve the diagnosis of patients, predict drug response and, in the longer term, develop cancer treatments personalised to a patient’s specific cancer.  

Follow tumour progression using cellular tracking

Each cell collected from a patient’s tumour can be labelled with tags or ‘barcodes’, allowing us to determine which subpopulations of cells in the tumour contribute to metastasis, organ specificity and drug-resistance. We are particularly interested in the effect of different microenvironments or ‘niches’ on the survival of cancer cells and the progression of disease.

Test new drugs in advanced models of metastatic breast cancer

Our laboratory is interested in developing ways to test the effect of various drugs on the survival of circulating tumour cells or metastasis. In particular, we focus on testing the effect of new targeted therapies on metastatic progression.

Fast facts

Some cancer cells have the ability to spread in the body. They can invade locally to nearby lymph nodes, to the vasculature and distant organs. This process is called metastasis. The mechanisms by which cells are able to adapt to different microenvironment are still unknown, but it appears that only a few cells from a tumour will successfully grow in distant organs and cause symptoms.

Different tumour cells in a tumour can show distinct phenotypic profiles such as gene expression, proliferation, and metastatic potential.

Drugs which specifically block the proliferation, survival or invasiveness of cancer cells, by targeting specific cellular pathways.

Recent publications

Cancer Cell

BH3-Mimetic Drugs: Blazing the Trail for New Cancer Medicines.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ccell.2018.11.004

View abstract
Nature Communications

Barcoding reveals complex clonal behavior in patient-derived xenografts of metastatic triple negative breast cancer.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-08595-2

View abstract
Science Translational Medicine

Synergistic action of the MCL-1 inhibitor S63845 with current therapies in preclinical models of triple-negative and HER2-amplified breast cancer.

DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aam7049

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers


Matrix Microenvironment and Metastasis Laboratory

Our research focus

In collaboration with Australian and international researchers, our research team has developed clinically relevant mouse models of breast cancer metastasis which replicate the entire process of metastasis in patients, from development of a primary tumour in the breast to the spontaneous spread of the disease to bone and brain. Key projects in our laboratory use these models to identify “gene signatures” which can predict patients likely to develop metastases in the brain and other sites, and to test the efficacy of various synthetic inhibitors and natural compounds against bone and brain metastasis.

A particular focus of our laboratory is on investigating whether potent integrin inhibitors found in snake venom can be used to overcome resistance to current therapies or to convert aggressive breast cancers into a milder form of the disease, which is more responsive to drugs already used in the clinic such as anti-oestrogens.

Fast facts

A network of large proteins – called extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins – present in virtually all organs. ECM proteins help maintain the integrity and normal functioning of healthy organs. During cancer development, the expression of these proteins and their receptors on cancer cells (called integrins) is altered to promote survival, growth and homing of cancer cells to distant organs.

Cell surface receptors used by cancer cells to attach to matrix proteins and send signals controlling cancer cell survival, growth and movement.

Our team

Meet our researchers


Metastasis Research Laboratory

Our research focus

We have identified several genes that regulate the metastatic process. By understanding how these genes act to control metastasis, we can develop effective therapies which directly target these genes or other genes controlled by these metastasis regulators. Another important aspect of our research is to examine human breast cancer tissues for evidence that the gene identified in our preclinical models is also relevant in the human disease.

Metastasis Regulating Genes

We have shown that some of the genes we have identified, including caveolin-1, microRNA-200 and BMP4, are able to suppress metastasis. With BMP4, we have found that its metastasis suppressing activity is in part through the inhibition of G-CSF, which controls the mobilisation and differentiation of neutrophils. In the presence of a tumour, the activity of neutrophils can be changed from infection fighting to supporting the spread of cancer cells to other organs, such as the lung. This led to our demonstration in our preclinical models that blocking the mobilisation of neutrophils can reduce metastasis. We are now probing more deeply to understand how neutrophil function is altered by factors released from tumours and the relevance of this to patients with breast cancer.

Much of our research is focused on immune regulation of metastasis by the innate immune system (including macrophages and neutrophils), but some of the other genes we have identified appear to act directly on the tumour cells to prevent their ability to metastasise.

Metastatic Dormancy

Breast cancer is noted for the long latency between diagnosis and therapy for the primary cancer and development of secondary cancers, which can cause ongoing anxiety for patients fearing a recurrence. We are investigating how tumour cells can disseminate from the primary tumour and remain alive but clinically undetectable for many years, and how they start expanding into life-threatening cancers in some patients. We are seeking therapies that prevent the expansion of these dormant cancer cells into new tumours.

Drug Discovery and Delivery

We have collaborated with Dr Ian Street and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute drug discovery team to identify small molecules that can be developed into drugs to combat metastatic disease. We also work with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (Monash University) to improve drug delivery to tumours using nanoparticle technology.

Fast facts

More than 18,000 Australian women and about 150 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 and more than 3,200 died, largely due to their cancer spreading to other vital organs such as the liver, lung and brain.

The process by which cancer cells spread from one organ to another, forming secondary tumours. Breast cancer commonly spreads to bone, liver, lung and brain.

A common type of white blood cell. They are an important part of the immune system and are found in sites of inflammation. They are the first line of defence against infectious agents but they can also contribute to the growth and spread of tumours.

A nanometre is one billionth of a metre, which means nanoparticles are small enough to move through the bloodstream. Nanotechnology can deliver drugs to specific cells, such as tumour cells, reducing the chances of adverse reactions in the patient.

Recent publications

Cancer Research

Activation of canonical BMP4-Smad7 signaling suppresses breast cancer metastasis.

DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-19-0743

View abstract
Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology

A framework for the development of anti-metastatic agents.

DOI: 10.1038/s41571-018-0134-8

View abstract
Cancer Immunology Research

The promotion of breast cancer metastasis caused by inhibition of CSF-1R/CSF-1 signaling is blocked by targeting the G-CSF receptor.

DOI: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-13-0190

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Prof Robin Anderson - Head, Translational Breast Cancer Program | Head, Metastasis Research Laboratory Publications
  • Nil Ansari - Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  • Stefan Bader - PhD Student
  • Caroline Bell - Research Assistant
  • Allan Burrows - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Lap Hing (Leo) Chi - PhD Student
  • Bedrich Eckhardt - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications

  • Kellie Mouchemore - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications Publications
  • Richard Redvers - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Charlotte Roelofs - PhD Student
  • Suraya Roslan - Research Assistant
  • Victoria Simovich - Research Assistant
  • Belinda Yeo - Clinician Scientist Publications


Cell Death and Survival Laboratory

Our research focus

Apoptosis

Cellular fate is controlled by multiple molecular pathways. The most studied is apoptosis, a form of programmed cell death used by all multicellular organisms to eliminate cells which are damaged, no longer needed or which might become a threat to the organism. This process is often deregulated in cancer cells allowing them to survive and proliferate when otherwise they should be eliminated.

BH3 mimetics

Dysfunctional apoptosis can cause or accelerate cancer development, but also underlies resistance to common cancer treatment approaches such as chemotherapy. Members of a particular family of proteins (the “BCL-2” proteins) are critical regulators of apoptosis. Recently, a new class of drugs called “BH3 mimetics” have been developed to target some BCL-2 proteins and activate apoptosis, leading to tumour cell death. One of these drugs is now being used in the clinic to treat some blood cancers, and others are under extensive investigation, including by our lab.

Autophagy

Autophagy is predominantly a process that enables cells to survive under stressful conditions such as when nutrients are in short supply. Like apoptosis, it can also become dysfunctional in cancer. Under some circumstance, proteins that regulate autophagy can also interact with those involved in apoptosis. This is a particular interest of our lab as it might have important implications for how cancer cell survive abnormally.

Fast facts

This term encompasses events such as when a cell receives external cues (e.g. from factors like proteins in the blood) and transmits them inside the cell to activate processes such as cell division, movement and death. Cells can also signal to other cells by secreting molecules such as proteins.

Under normal conditions,  apoptosis is essential to remove old, damaged or dangerous cells. In cancer, this process is often switched off allowing abnormal cells to survive and grow when they should otherwise be killed and eliminated.

Primarily, a cell survival process meaning to “self eat”. In times of stress, nutrient deprivation or infection, the cell eats its own components in order to maintain cellular energy levels, or to remove unwanted materials (such as viruses and non-functioning protein aggregates) allowing it to survive.

Recent publications

Nature

BCL-XL and MCL-1 Are the Key BCL-2 Family Proteins in Melanoma Cell Survival

DOI: 10.1038/s41419-019-1568-3

View abstract
Autophagy

Structural Insights Into BCL2 Pro-Survival Protein Interactions With the Key Autophagy Regulator BECN1 Following Phosphorylation by STK4/MST1

DOI: 10.1080/15548627.2018.1564557

View abstract
Genes and Development

Physiological Restraint of Bak by Bcl-xL Is Essential for Cell Survival

DOI: 10.1101/gad.279414.116

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • A/Prof Doug Fairlie - Head, Cell Death And Survival Laboratory  Publications
  • Erinna Lee - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Tiffany Harris - Research Assistant
  • Nikita Steinohrt - Research Assistant
  • Sharon Tran - PhD Student


Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory

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

Nature Communications

Deletion of intestinal Hdac3 remodels the lipidome of enterocytes and protects mice from diet-induced obesity.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13180-8

View abstract
iScience

Genomic Profiling of Biliary Tract Cancer Cell Lines Reveals Molecular Subtypes and Actionable Drug Targets.

DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2019.10.044

View abstract
Annals of Oncology

The prognostic impact of consensus molecular subtypes (CMS) and its predictive effects for bevacizumab benefit in metastatic colorectal cancer: molecular analysis of the AGITG MAX clinical trial.

DOI: 10.1093/annonc/mdy410

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Prof John Mariadason - Head, Gastrointestinal Cancers Program | Head, Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory Publications
  • Zakia Alam - PhD Student
  • Fiona Chionh - Postdoctoral Research Fellow  Publications
  • George Iatropoulos - PhD Student
  • Laura Jenkins - PhD Student
  • Stan Kacmarczyk - Senior Research Officer

  • Ian Luk - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Irvin Ng - Phd Student
  • Rebecca Nightingale - Research Assistant
  • Kael Schoffer - Research Assistant


Mucosal Immunity and Cancer Laboratory

Our research focus

Function of intestinal immune cells in bowel cancer

Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) are immune cells which continually survey intestinal epithelial cells for infection or damage. Bowel cancer forms when the epithelial cells become damaged and change, growing in an uncontrolled manner. The role of IELs in this process, and whether or not they play a role in tumour cell growth or killing tumour cells, has not been studied in detail. Our laboratory aims to understand these cells, including the molecules that regulate their function in steady state development and in the development of cancer. 

Regulation of cytokines in the gastrointestinal tract

Cytokines, such as IL-17 and IL-22, are secreted by immune cells and are critical in boosting epithelial cell and tumour survival in the intestine. Bowel cancer patients with increased IL-17 and IL-22 levels experience increased tumour growth and have a poorer prognosis. We are dissecting the molecular pathways and cell types involved in regulating IL-17 and IL-22 production to investigate the role these cytokines play in bowel cancer progression. It is crucial that we understand these mechanisms so we can develop new immune cell-mediated therapies to treat gastrointestinal cancers.

Influence of the microbiome on immune health  

Each person’s microbiome is unique and is made up of good bacteria, viruses and fungi which live on the body’s surfaces, such as the skin and intestine. Our understanding of these resident microbes and how they affect the body’s immune response to an infectious organism or disease, such as cancer, is limited. We are working to understand the mechanisms which link the microbiome to overall immune cell health, including the activation of transcription factors that guide immune cell development, as well as the cytokines they secrete in order to communicate with the rest of the body’s cells.

Fast facts

As well as being found in the blood, immune cells are also in the body’s tissues, which they continuously survey for infection and cancer.

Mucus-covered tissues including the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. These sites are home to specialised immune cells, which play a critical role in maintaining mucosal surfaces in order to protect the body from the external environment.

All the bacteria and other microbes that live on the body’s surfaces, such as the skin and intestine. Interaction between these microbes and immune cells is critical in shaping the immune system, and can even influence the body’s response to some cancer treatments.

Recent publications

Trends in Immunology

Control of Lymphocyte Fate, Infection, and Tumor Immunity by TCF-1.
DOI: 10.1016/j.it.2019.10.006.

View abstract
Journal of Experimental Medicine

TCF-1 limits the formation of Tc17 cells via repression of the MAF-RORγt axis.

DOI: 10.1084/jem.20181778

View abstract
Journal of Experimental Medicine

Retinoic acid expression associates with enhanced IL-22 production by γδ T cells and innate lymphoid cells and attenuation of intestinal inflammation.

DOI: 10.1084/jem.20121588

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers

  • Dr Lisa Mielke - Head, Mucosal Immunology Laboratory Publications
  • Pavitha Parathan - Research Assistant
  • Dinesh Raghu - Postdoctoral Research Fellow Publications
  • Kelly Tran - Research Assistant


Tumour Immunology Laboratory

Our research focus

We constantly use and develop cutting-edge methodologies, including multiplex immuno-fluorescence and RNA-Scope for the characterisation of the tumour microenvironment, protein arrays for the detection of cancer-specific antibodies, and in vitro T cell assays for the detection of novel immunogenic peptides, among others. We are exploring how a successful immune recognition is orchestrated and translated from the early (innate arm) to the late (adaptive) response.

This ‘immunostaging’ of cancers will allow us to understand why and how immunotherapy works for some patients but not for others, and how we can increase the number of patients who benefit from these treatments. The laboratory has extensive experience in clinical trial monitoring and collaborative industry projects, all centred on improving outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients. We collaborate with several leading cancer research laboratories in Australia and internationally.

Fast facts

Tumour cells often look very different to the immune system when compared to healthy cells. To avoid destruction, tumours use a variety of strategies to overcome or to ‘hide’ from an immune response. This interaction of tumour cells with a large variety of immune cells can be more or less pronounced and influence outcome of the disease or response to particular treatments. The quality and quantity of these interactions can be measured on multiple levels, which all together represent the tumour-immune engagement.

Antibodies are proteins produced by a subtype of immune cells which can specifically recognise, bind and often neutralise antigens which the immune system recognises as foreign or a threat (e.g. viruses or bacteria). In cancer, specific antibodies are produced as a response to antigens on cancer cells, which are different than those on normal cells. While their function in the immune recognition of cancer is unclear, their detection in the blood indicates the presence of cancer cells.

Recent publications

Science

Characterising the phenotypic evolution of circulating tumour cells during treatment.
Butyrophilin 2A1 is essential for phosphoantigen reactivity by γδ T cells

DOI: 10.1126/science.aay5516

View abstract
Frontiers in Immunology

Autoantibodies May Predict Immune-Related Toxicity: Results from a Phase I Study of Intralesional Bacillus Calmette-Guérin followed by Ipilimumab in Patients with Advanced Metastatic Melanoma.

DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.00411

View abstract
Nature Communication

Characterising the phenotypic evolution of circulating tumour cells during treatment.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03725-8

View abstract

Our team

Meet our researchers