Cancer immunotherapy harnesses and enhances the power of the immune system to fight cancer and represents the most promising new cancer treatment approach.

Immunotherapy constitutes an effective treatment for patients with certain types of cancer that have been resistant to chemotherapy and radiation treatment (e.g. melanoma). Nevertheless, the clinical benefit provided by current immunotherapeutic approaches is still limited to 25-30% of treated cancer patients. By exploiting the most advanced technologies (nanoparticle-based vaccines, neo-antigens identification and validation, etc.), suitable preclinical models, and investigation of anti-tumour immune responses in cancer patients, we are developing innovative strategies potentially able to improve current approaches.

We are also investigating a range of different combinations of immunotherapeutic approaches and conventional treatment modalities to identify the most effective and tailored therapeutic schedule.

Our final goal is to provide effective treatments for cancer patients with reduced non-specific side-effects.

Our current research focuses on:

  • Cancer vaccines exploiting the in vivo delivery of tumour specific (neo-)antigens to cross-presenting dendritic cells to improve the immunotherapy for melanoma, breast cancer, lymphoma, glioblastoma and virus-driven tumours.
  • Development and validation of clinically applicable protocols for the identification of tumour-specific immunogenic neo-epitopes to be exploited in personalised vaccination approaches.
  • Identify and validate new classes of tumour antigens that can constitute suitable targets for immunotherapy in various types of cancers.
  • Assessment of the clinical relevance of anti-tumour immune responses in cancer patients treated with immunomodulating treatments
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation – Investigator Initiated Scheme 2018. New strategies to improve personalized immunotherapy of breast cancer.
  • Cancer Council Queensland. APP1165064. Strategies to overcome immune-resistance to cancer vaccines.
  • Children Hospital Foundation - 2019 Preclinical and Clinical Research Accelerator Grant - Application RPC0832019. New strategies for targeting immune evasion in children's brain tumours.
  • Metro South Health 2019 Research Support Scheme - Program Grant. Tumour neo-antigen-specific immune responses in oesophageal cancer long-term survivors: proof-of-concept for improved personalised therapeutic strategies.
  • Cancer Council Queensland. APP1145758. Improved antigen-specific immunotherapy for cutaneous malignant melanoma.
  • Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre 2017. Identification of immunogenic neo-epitopes from acral melanoma for cancer immunotherapy
  • Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre 2016. Pre-clinical development of antigen-specific immunotherapy and strategies to overcome regulation in cutaneous malignant melanoma
  • A/Prof. Irina Caminschi and Prof. Tony Purcell, Monash University, Melbourne, A/Prof. Paul Leo, QUT, Dr. Ian Bennett, Princes Alexandra Hospital, Dr. Natasha Woodward, Mater Hospital. Project aiming at characterizing the role of neo-antigen immune responses in mouse and human breast cancer.
  • A/Prof Michael Kershaw, Peter MacCallum/Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Melbourne. Project aiming at exploiting our Clec9A-targeting vaccination platform to enhance co-stimulation and in vivo persistence of CAR-T cells with dual specificity.
  • Prof. Nicholas Hayward, Dr. Nic Waddel, Dr. Michele Teng, QIMR-B. Project aiming at characterizing the immunogenicity of acral melanomas.
  • A/Prof. A. Barbour, Princess Alexandra Hospital. Project aiming at characterising tumour neo-antigen-specific immune responses in oesophageal adenocarcinoma patients with long-term survival.
  • Merck, Sharp & Dohme Corp. Inc. Project aiming at promoting further development of the self-adjuvanting vaccination platform developed at UQDI in close collaboration with Prof. Ranjeny Thomas.