VPCC investigators are drawn from the eight clinical, research and academic partners that drive the research of the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium. The eight partners are Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, WEHI, Monash Children’s Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the University of Melbourne and Monash University, underpinned by the efforts and generosity of the Children’s Cancer Foundation,
Dr Jason Cain
Dr Jason Cain is a developmental and cancer biologist involved in full-time basic research for the last 14 years. Dr Cain obtained his PhD from Monash University in 2006, immediately followed by four years of postdoctoral training in developmental biology in the Program of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology at The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada. Here, he focused on the underlying mechanisms of renal development and disease, developing valuable and specialised skills in developmental biology and mouse modelling of human disease. In late 2010, he returned to Australia to take up a Research Fellow position in cancer biology at the Monash Institute of Medical Research. In 2014, Dr Cain was appointed Research Group Head of the Developmental and Cancer Biology laboratory in the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institute of Medical Research. Dr Cain was appointed as a Director to the Board of the Australia and New Zealand Sarcoma Association (ANZSA) in July 2023. His laboratory works mainly on paediatric sarcomas (malignant rhabdoid tumours and osteosarcomas), diffuse midline gliomas and lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD).
In the last 10 years, Dr Cain’s research has been the foundation for the establishment of a Phase II clinical trial with a Novartis small molecule Hedgehog (Hh) inhibitor in osteosarcoma. More recently, Dr Cain’s work has identified genetic and cellular biomarkers of response to Hh pathway inhibition in osteosarcoma (Cochrane et al. 2020 JCI, Vaghjiani et al, Oncogene, submitted). In addition, Dr Cain has published on the differentiation potential of human osteosarcoma and malignant rhabdoid tumours in response to Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) (Cain et al. 2013 Sarcoma, Muscat et al. 2016 Clin Cancer Res), underpinning a Phase II clinical study of panobinostat in refractory paediatric solid tumours. Dr Cain has authored 25 research papers in the last five years (42 total) in journals including Sci Transl Med, JCI, Clin Cancer Res and Oncogene. Dr Cain is supported by the Victorian Cancer Agency, MRFF, Children’s Cancer Foundation, Isabella and Marcus Foundation and the Australian and New Zealand Sarcoma Association.
Ms Justine Carder
Ms Carder is the Program Manager of the Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service (PICS), a partnership between The Royal Children’s Hospital, Monash Children’s Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. She leads the PICS strategy and service improvement agenda supporting the delivery of paediatric oncology care in Victoria in alignment with the Victorian Cancer Plan objectives.
Justine provides operational leadership to the Long-Term Follow-Up Program for survivors of childhood cancer and the Regional Outreach & Shared Care Program. As a public healthcare manager for over 15 years, in the UK and Victoria, Justine has focused her career in paediatrics and oncology, developing collaborative professional relationships with clinical and non-clinical teams to facilitate the delivery of excellent patient care. Justine’s specific focus within the VPCC is the development of the Paediatric Cancer Survivorship Registry, which will provide significant opportunities for research collaboration and clinical service improvement.
Prof Bruce Carleton
Prof Bruce Carleton is Director of the Pharmaceutical Outcomes Programme at BC Children’s Hospital, which is devoted to evaluating the impact of drug therapy on patients’ health outcomes. He is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia (UBC). He is also a Senior Clinician Scientist at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and runs the Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety, a pan-Canadian and International Network devoted to the study of the pharmacogenomic basis of serious adverse effects.
Prof Carleton holds faculty appointments at UBC in the Department of Medical Genetics, School of Population and Public Health, Centre for Health Services and Policy Research and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
He is also an adjunct professor at the School of Health Information Science at University of Victoria. He has served on the national Canadian Drug Expert Advisory Committee since its inception and serves the US Government as a Special Government Employee to advise the Advisory Committee for Pharmaceuticals and Clinical Pharmacology of the FDA. A key element of Prof Carleton’s research is the creation of tools to make drug therapy more optimal and safer for all patients. Another key priority is the communication of results to clinicians, patients, healthcare administrators, and government staff who also hold responsibilities to improve patient care.
Dr Catherine Carmichael
Dr Catherine Carmichael is a molecular cancer biologist and head of the Leukaemia Modelling and Therapeutic Discovery group within the Centre for Cancer Research at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research. She has worked in the field of malignant haematology for 18 years, undertaking her PhD and initial postdoctoral training at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (2004-2013) followed by six years’ postdoctoral training at the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases (ACBD) at Monash University. Dr Carmichael was appointed to Research Group Leader at ACBD in 2019, before moving her laboratory to the Hudson Institute in early 2022.
Dr Carmichael’s research focuses on understanding the common mechanisms driving Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) development, with the ultimate goal of identifying novel ways to treat this devastating disease. Her laboratory uses a variety of leukaemia modelling approaches along with cutting edge functional, molecular and genomic assays to identify leukaemia cell-specific dependencies that may be therapeutically targetable. Dr Carmichael’s research has been supported by funding from the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia, Monash University and the NHMRC, and her work has been published in a number of top journals including Blood, Leukemia, Nature Genetics and Cancer Cell.
A/Prof Rachel Conyers
A/Prof Rachel Conyers is a clinician scientist who trained in Paediatric Oncology with specialisation in leukaemia, lymphoma and bone marrow transplantation. She is the current clinical lead of Bone Marrow Transplantation at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne; and the Team Leader of Pharmacogenomics and recipient of Clinician Scientist Fellowship (since 2016) at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She is a recognised national leader in pharmacogenomics and rare toxicities as demonstrated by her position as the lead for Pharmacogenomics implementation and discovery through the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC) and co-chair of pharmacogenomics working group in the Zero Childhood Cancer Program.
A/Prof Conyers has independently attained funding towards the establishment of the Australian Cardio Oncology Registry and Biobank and its associated research studies and more recently, the Pharmacogenomics program. This is demonstrated by $3.2M of MRFF, NHMRC, government and philanthropic funding, with an additional $10.7M funding as CIC, CID, CIG. She has published 60 articles to date (1233 citations, 15 h-index,) with a > 1 field weighted citation impact (SCOPUS) for Clinical Pharmacology and Pharmacogenetics (18.4) and Cardiotoxicity (1.2).
A/Prof Conyers’s international leadership in pharmacogenetics and rare toxicities is demonstrated by her position as principal investigator of cardiac toxicity working groups for Ponte De Legno Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia Working Group (Europe) and contribution to the Cardiovascular Task Force for Children’s Oncology Group (US). As Team Leader of Pharmacogenetics at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, she leads a talented multi-disciplinary team with a program of work in discovery and implementation of pharmacogenomics.
A/Prof Conyers has further developed her leadership skills by studies at Melbourne Business School Leadership in Health Care (Scholarship Recipient Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre), participation in a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at Melbourne Business School with a Deans Commendation (Business Strategy, 2021), and completion of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administration Leadership for Clinicians Program (2021, AFRACMA).
Prof Roger Daly
Following completion of his PhD at the University of Liverpool, UK, Prof Roger Daly took up postdoctoral fellow positions at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, UK (1988-1990) followed by New York University Medical Centre, New York, USA (1990-1992). He then established an independent research laboratory, the Signal Transduction Group, at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in 1993, where he conducted research for ~20 years.
Prof Daly moved to Monash University in 2013, where he is Professor of Signalling Network Biology, current Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and joint head of the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute Cancer Program. He was a NHMRC Research Fellow from 1999-2019. Prof Daly is an internationally recognised expert in growth factor receptor signalling and its deregulation in cancer and has consistently produced ground-breaking work in the field, authoring >140 publications, 49 with >100 citations, 32 with 50-100, an overall count of >22,000 citations, and an h-index of 66 (Google Scholar).
Over the last 15 years he has established cutting-edge technology platforms in mass spectrometry (MS)- based proteomics and kinomics and has successfully applied these to characterisation of cancer signalling networks, demonstrating that characterisation at a network level can subclassify specific cancers and identify improved therapeutic strategies. Prof Daly’s global characterisation of cancer signalling networks has provided novel insights into cancer biology and subclassification (e.g. Hochgrafe Cancer Res 2010), identified novel therapeutic strategies (Ma Nat Comms 2019) and changed clinical practice – Fleuren Cancer Res 2017 led to testing for ALK alterations in sarcoma and clinical trials. Professor Daly is supported by the NHMRC, Australian Research Council, US Department of Defense and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. His contributions to the field were recognised by the inaugural Research Excellence and Mentorship Award from the Garvan Institute in 2022′
Prof Tracey Danaher
Prof Tracey Danaher is a social science researcher in the areas of business, marketing, quality improvement, and consumer behaviour, with a speciality in healthcare service research. Prof Danaher’s research focuses on understanding the customer experience, developing models of marketing effectiveness, and using marketing to improve consumer well-being. Since completing her PhD, which studied the experience of adult cancer patients, she has continued to pursue research into the patient experience/journey, healthcare service quality improvement, patient satisfaction, and their association with patient quality-of-life and well-being.
Prof Danaher’s research has significantly impacted business practice, informing strategy and policy within large retail and healthcare organisations. She has consistently published in the highest-ranked journals in her parent discipline of marketing, including the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Service Research. She has also published her research in medical journals such as the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Oncology Practice, and Mayo Proceedings. Prof Danaher is the recipient of several national and international research and impact awards, and has been awarded three prestigious ARC Discovery Grants, and an ARC Linkage Grant. She has taught undergraduate and postgraduate classes and has mentored PhD and Honours students, early career research staff, and postdoctoral researchers. Finally, was previously the Academic Director of the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, which produces high quality academic and commercial research for a variety of stakeholders. She holds several editorial board positions, is a member of the board for the Children’s Cancer Foundation and is the mother of a child who was diagnosed, treated and passed away from cancer. Tracey is a member and researcher within the Victorian Paediatric Cancer Consortium.
A/Prof Peter Downie AM
A/Prof Peter Downie AM is a clinical paediatric haematologist-oncologist and has been the Head of Unit, Paediatric Haematology-Oncology, and Director of the Children’s Cancer Centre, Monash Children’s Hospital, since 1994. During that time, he has been involved in clinical research and was the Children’s Oncology Group PI for Monash Children’s Cancer Centre from 2010-2017. He remains PI for several clinical trials and is the Head of Clinical Enterprise for the Hudson Monash Next Generation Precision Medicine Program. He obtained his MBBS from Monash University in 1981 and was admitted as a Fellow of the RACP in 1991. His early research was in male fertility assessment following chemotherapy treatment for childhood Hodgkin disease, with the hypothesis for his MD thesis based on the premise that the quiescent pre-pubertal testis would be protected from cytotoxic gonadal damage; and if so, then use of gonadotrophin analogues to block spermatogenesis during chemotherapy would potentially preserve fertility in older children, adolescents and adults.
As Research Fellow at the University of Chicago, he studied leukaemia biology, working on establishing a range of human leukaemia cell lines to investigate the role of prostaglandins and TGf-beta in leukaemia biology, and the MLL gene in infant leukaemia. (Downie et al 1994 Cancer Res. Zhang, Downie et al 1993 Leukemia). He was awarded 1st Prize, Basic Sciences in the annual University of Chicago Research Symposium in 1993 for work on ALL cell lines, and ALL biology. A/Prof Downie has been an author on more than 50 peer-reviewed published manuscripts, and has written three book chapters relating to paediatric cancer.
A/Prof Paul Ekert
A/Prof Paul Ekert is the Group Leader of the Translational Tumour Biology at the Children’s Cancer Institute, UNSW, and is cross appointed at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. His research interests include the molecular biology and therapeutic targeting of genomic drivers in paediatric cancer, with a focus on fusion oncogenes. This involves the development of new models to investigate the functional molecular consequences of these drivers and determining how they can be therapeutically targeted. His research also focuses on the immunological landscape of paediatric cancer and the implications this has for immunotherapies. A/Prof Ekert has been a contributor and investigator on the Zero Childhood Cancer program – Australia’s national trial of precision medicine in paediatric cancer – since its inception. He has helped develop the genomic analysis platforms and has a major role in the curation team that analyses the genomic data for clinically actionable targets. He is a co-senior and co-corresponding author on the first major publication from this study in Nature Medicine.
A/Prof Ekert completed his medical degree at the University of Melbourne and then trained as a paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. He completed a clinical fellowship at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada. In 1996, he returned to Australia to work with Prof David Vaux at WEHI, where he studied aspects of apoptosis pathways, in particular the molecular intersections between cytokine receptor signalling pathways and the regulation of BCL2-famiily proteins. Since that time, he has held laboratory head and Group Leader positions at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and WEHI, before joining the Children’s Cancer Institute. At the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, A/Prof Ekert established a program of RNA sequencing to identify novel driver oncogenes, primarily in childhood leukaemia.
Dr Pouya Faridi
Dr Pouya Faridi is the head of the Translational Antigen Discovery Laboratory at the School of Clinical Sciences, Monash University. Following completion of his pharmacy doctorate and PhD at the Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Iran, he joined Prof Ruedi Aebersold’s laboratory at Institute for Molecular Systems Biology at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. In 2016, he moved to Australia and joined Prof Tony Purcell’s lab at Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University. In 2021, he established his own laboratory at the Department of Medicine, Monash University.
Dr Faridi has developed several mass spectrometry and proteomics technologies for identification and quantification of peptides, proteins and metabolites. He has applied these technologies for the identification and validation of actionable targets for cancer immunotherapy. Some of the peptides that he identified are currently in use for cancer vaccination clinical studies. In addition to his research lab, Dr Faridi is the co-director of the Monash Clinical Proteomics Facility.
Dr Faridi’s research excellence is shown by the mid-career fellowship from the Victorian Cancer Agency for the development of precision vaccines for devastating paediatric brain tumours. He has several patents in the antigen discovery field and his research has been published in prestigious journals including Cell, Science Immunology, Nature Communications and Cancer Immunology Research. Faridi lab is supported by NHMRC, Cancer Australia, Australian Melanoma Research Foundation and Isabella & Marcus Foundation.
Prof Jordan Hansford
Prof Jordan Hansford is a specialist in paediatric oncology and a clinical trialist focused on paediatric neuro-oncology and early phase clinical trials. He has dual roles with the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network in Adelaide, where he is the Hospital Research Foundation Paediatric Radiation Oncology Fellow and the inaugural McClurg Brain Cancer Fellow. He obtained his BScH at Queen’s University, Canada in 1997 prior to moving to his MSc degree at Queen’s, completing studies in Pathology (Cancer Genetics) in 2000. Following this graduate degree, he entered Medicine at the University of Sydney, completing his studies in 2004. From 2002-2004 he spent all summers and electives training with the Hospital for Sick Children Haematology and Oncology team in Toronto, Canada. He completed his clinical training from 2004-2012 working in Queensland (Mater Hospital, Mater Children’s Hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital Brisbane); South Australia (Women and Children’s Hospital) and finally Western Australia (Princess Margaret Hospital). In 2013, Prof Hansford was recruited to The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne to reinvigorate the neuro-oncology program where he worked until 2021.
Since 2013, he has established clinical and basic science collaborations and partnerships with the major research hospitals and clinical groups nationally and internationally, including work on advanced molecular profiling of brain tumours and the clinical behavior of rare embryonal brain tumours. He sits on international working groups for embryonal brain tumours, low grade glioma and ependymoma. He has been the vice chair of the Australia and New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Brain Group (ANZCHOG) for four years prior to taking over the group as chair in 2020. He sits on the board of Directors for ANZCHOG, elected in 2020. Prof Hansford is supported by the RCH Foundation, Cancer Australia, the RCD Foundation, Zoe’s Fight Foundation, Marcus Rosin Fund/CCF, Carrie’s Beanies for Brain Cancer, My Room, Hospital Research Foundation, the MRFF and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A/Prof Gabrielle Haeusler
Associate Professor Gabrielle Haeusler is a paediatrician and infectious diseases physician at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. She is also a post-doctoral researcher with the National Centre for Infections in Cancer (NCIC) and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). Gabrielle’s program of research focuses on optimising infection prevention, diagnosis and treatment in children with cancer.
Infections are one of the most common complication of childhood cancer treatment and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. They also contribute to increased healthcare costs and negatively impact patient and parent quality of life. A/Prof Haeusler’s vision is to improve the management of these infections by (i) addressing critical evidence gaps; (ii) establishing ‘infections in paediatric cancer’ as a unique clinical and research specialty and (iii) building a dedicated, national workforce.
A/Prof Haeusler’s multidisciplinary research program has led to a paradigm shift in febrile neutropenia (FN) research and management nationally and internationally. It has generated a new methodology for paediatric FN research, impacting the design and reporting of >30 international studies, and delivered new knowledge for FN risk stratification (AUS-rule) and new treatment pathways in children. Results have been adopted in 8 tertiary paediatric cancer centres in Australia (see >90% cancer diagnoses) and 14 hospitals in the UK.
A/Prof Haeusler is in the top 0.03% authors on FN worldwide, has >80 publications and is an investigator on grants totalling >$13 million. She is currently leading an EMR-embedded randomised trial to address antibiotic duration in FN (ELSA-FN study, NCT04948463) and a national low-risk FN implementation study (There is no place like home).
A/Prof Yasmin Jayasinghe
A/Prof Yasmin Jayasinghe is a leading oncofertility clinician and translationalist. She is the founding chair of the ANZ Consortium in Oncofertility (ANZCO) Clinical Trials Network and Australia’s representative on the Best Practices committee of the Global Oncofertility Consortium. She actively leads the international practice and research agenda for paediatric oncofertility. She is the Director of the Oncofertility Program at The RCH and a paediatric and adolescent gynaecologist (PAG). She is the Australian representative on faculty for the World Congress of PAG and chairs the ANZ Oncofertility Summits facilitating widespread capacity building and dissemination.
Yasmin is a past NHMRC translational fellow. Her PhD examined virology, HPV 16 variants and environmental risk factors for cervical cancers in young women in the prevaccination era providing important baseline data for population monitoring of new cervical screening and HPV vaccine protocols. She has been pioneering new models of oncofertility care since 2013, and was a finalist in the Vic Health Awards (Research into Action) for transforming key performance indicators in oncofertility care in 2019, by developing the Melbourne Oncofertility REgistry (MORE) learning healthcare system. She introduced the first oncofertility nurse navigators in Australia, recognized in the Australian Nurse of the Year awards in 2020 (finalist). Yasmin was a state finalist in the Telstra Women’s Business Awards recognising ‘outstanding women who disrupt the way we do business’ (2020), and was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Medal for her work towards protecting the reproductive rights of children (2021). She is CIA on an oncofertility MRFF for ‘Life Saving and Job Creating Medical Research’ translating oncofertility and survivorship research at ANZCHOG centres.
A/Prof Misty Jenkins AO
A/Prof Jenkins has spearheaded and established an entirely new program of research into immunotherapy to treat paediatric brain cancer at WEHI. Her vision is to establish a world leading immunotherapy laboratory, dedicated to the development and application of immunotherapy as a therapeutic option for brain cancer in children and adults. She has already demonstrated the feasibility of rapidly generating novel CAR T-cell immunotherapy and is now in planning for translation of her glioblastoma program into the clinic.
A/Prof Jenkins has a strong background in classic immunology, studying T cell effector responses to both viral infections and cancer. She has a well-established track record in understanding the cytotoxic T cell responses and how to manipulate them in designing therapies for cancer.
Her strength lies in her multidisciplinary approach, including expertise from basic cell biology and immunology, including molecular biology and receptor design, to high end confocal microscopy, animal models of paediatric brain cancer, proteomics and bioinformatics through to clinical development. In the past 5 years she has dedicated her research to applying this knowledge to the field of cancer immunotherapy and leads a productive research program dedicated to applying immunotherapy, in the form of chimeric antigen receptor T cells, as a treatment for paediatric brain cancer.
Dr Dong-Anh Khuong-Quang
Dr Dong-Anh Khuong-Quang is a paediatric and molecular oncologist in the Children’s Cancer Centre at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. Dr Khuong-Quang obtained her medical degree with a specialisation in Paediatrics from the University Paris-Descartes 5 in France and completed her training in paediatric oncology at The Royal Children’s Hospital. She also received her PhD in Human Genetics from McGill University in Canada, where she worked on molecular characterisation of paediatric high-grade gliomas in the laboratory of Prof Nada Jabado. Her present research is focused on the genetic characterisation of rare paediatric tumours through the application of next-generation profiling methods with a special interest in brain tumours. Her work has been published in prestigious journals including Nature, Cancer Cell and Nature Genetics. She is also involved in several Australian precision medicine projects translating genomic findings into a clinical context, including the Zero Childhood Cancer program led by the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia. She is also the principal investigator of several clinical trials testing novel therapeutic approaches for children with cancer. Dr Khuong-Quang is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Zero Childhood Cancer program.
Prof Sebastian Lunke
A/Prof Sebastian Lunke is a clinical scientist and currently the Head of the Division of Genetics & Genomics at the Victorian Clinical Genetic Services (VCGS) and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). He undertook a PhD in Epigenomics and worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Pathology at the University of Melbourne, focussing on assay development for cancer genomics. He went on to take up a senior medical scientist position at the University of Melbourne where he focused on the development of targeted NGS assays and bioinformatic pipelines for somatic mutation detection in tumour samples. In 2014, he was the first scientist trainee fellow to be admitted into the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia’s Faculty of Science training program for Clinical Scientists. Today, his team at the VCGS constitutes one of the largest NATA-accredited clinical genomics laboratories in Australia, with a strong focus on delivery of high-quality clinical genomics assay and translation of novel technologies into clinical practice.
Dr Louise Ludlow
Dr Louise Ludlow manages the Children’s Cancer Centre Biobank at The Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne. She has been in this role since she led the establishment of the biobank in 2013. She strives to provide high quality, clinically annotated biospecimens for national and international translational research projects and to deliver complex logistical and technical support for cancer clinical trial research including precision oncology.
Dr Ludlow has over 15 years cell and molecular biology experience in four laboratories including a PhD from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (The University of Melbourne) and a post-doctoral position at Northwestern University, Illinois, USA. These skills, along with specialised expertise in the ethical framework surrounding paediatric biobanking, implementation of cost recovery processes and engagement with philanthropic funding bodies, have enabled the continual improvement and development of this research enabling platform.
She is an advocate for the role of biobanking working in partnership with clinical services and medical personnel to drive research leading to progress and change.
Prof Paul Neeson
Prof Paul Neeson completed a PhD at the University of Melbourne (Pathology), before undertaking postdoctoral training in the Paterson lab (University of Pennsylvania) where he worked on B-cell lymphoma vaccines. He returned to Melbourne and established the human translational lab in the Cancer Immunology Program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. His lab has adopted ‘state of the art’ technologies to explore the immune context of human cancer. This information is being used to better understand mechanisms of resistance and immune escape, and to stratify patients for immunotherapy combination treatments (including CAR T cells) for better outcomes in patients with solid tumours. Recent work has focused on exploring the immune context of paediatric solid cancers and engineering CAR T cells to address the tumour microenvironment challenges.
A/Prof Maria McCarthy
A/Prof Maria McCarthy is a Senior Research Fellow with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), an Honorary Principal Fellow in the Department of Paediatrics, and a Senior Mental Health Clinician who leads the clinical psycho-oncology program at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). She has a PhD (awarded in 2010) from the University of Melbourne and a research Masters in Applied Science from Latrobe University. A/Prof McCarthy is a clinician-researcher with 18 years’ experience in leading clinical and research initiatives to improve care and quality of life outcomes for children, young people and families affected by cancer. She is a previous recipient of a 3-year MCRI Career Development Award (2013-2016) and is a current recipient of a Victorian Cancer Agency Research Fellowship (2021-2025). A/Prof McCarthy has 80 peer-reviewed publications and is a recognised leader in her field of psycho-oncology at a national and international level.
She is the Chair of the Australian New Zealand Children’s Haematology and Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) Psycho-oncology Committee and a member of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) Psycho-oncology committee. Her research focus encompasses cancer survivorship, including psychosocial and cognitive late effects. Her research team are actively involved in international and national clinical trials research and are also focused on intervention and implementation research, aimed at rapidly translating evidence into clinical practice.
A/Prof Joseph (Sefi) Rosenbluh
A/Prof Joseph (Sefi) Rosenbluh is an expert in cancer functional genomics and has led many CRISPR screening efforts aimed at identifying genes, pathways and drug targets associated with various cancer phenotypes. He has published seminal papers in highly influential journals describing the use of large-scale genetic screens for identification of gene targets in cancer (Cell 2012, Cell 2012, Cell 2014, Nature Biotechnology 2016, Genome Biology 2021). In recent years he developed approaches for genetic interaction mapping (Cell Systems, 2016) and the use of CRISPRi for genetic screens (Nature Communications, 2017). His lab has made major discoveries of genes associated with breast cancer risk as well as transcript isoforms required for gastric cancer proliferation and new strategies for treatment of WNT driven colon cancers. In addition to his research lab, A/Prof Rosenbluh is the scientific director of the Monash Functional Genomics Platform and has expertise and experience in the design execution and interpretation of large-scale genetic screens.
A/Prof Rosenbluh completed his PhD at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem before moving to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT as a postdoctoral fellow and later as an instructor of medicine. He joined the faculty of Monash University in 2017. In total, A/Prof Rosenbluh has authored 28 research publications, many of which are influential publications in journals such as Cell (3 papers), Cell Systems, Nature Genetics and Nature Communications.
A/Prof David Powell
A/Prof Powell is the director of the Monash University Bioinformatics Platform and a researcher in the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute. David collaborates broadly, bringing his bioinformatics expertise to research projects, and he mentors the 10 staff in the bioinformatics platform and is co-supervisor for several PhD students. David has a strong record of bioinformatics analysis on research projects, and he has developed several popular tools that are widely used by researchers. He has a PhD in Computer Science, specialising in sequence alignment algorithms, and has worked professionally leading software development teams. David has worked throughout his research career on interpreting genomic sequence data from his early work in applying information theory to sequence alignment with new algorithms and visualisations. More recently, David has become an innovative leader in adding interactivity to visualisation techniques with bioinformatics to address challenges in interpreting biological data. Through his leadership position in the bioinformatics platform, David’s platform has delivered extensive training in bioinformatics to the community. And through this community, David has co-founded an initiative, Data Fluency, to bring data analysis skills to researchers and professionals across the university.
A/Prof Lee Wong
A/Prof Lee Wong is the group leader of the Epigenetics and Chromatin Research Group at Monash University. She has 20 years of experience working in the chromatin field, especially on telomere biology and histone mutations in cancer. Her research program aims to define telomere and chromatin defects linked to the development of paediatric brain cancers, and to provide potential translatable opportunities for treatment of these tumours. Her work was the first to report the roles for histone H3.3 and its chaperone ATRX at telomeres. It paved the way to studies that have linked ATRX mutations to alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT), which is a key telomere maintenance mechanism activated in human cancers to evade cell growth arrest. One striking finding in the area of cancer epigenetics has been the identification of the mutations of histone H3.3 and ATRX genes in paediatric glioblastomas.
A/Prof Wong’s team showed that mutant H3.3 disrupts genome-wide chromatin state by inhibiting histone demethylases in paediatric glioblastomas, and identified KDM4B demethylase as a key regulator of ALT pathway. They also showed that ATRX-mutated cancers suffer a severe ribosomal DNA repeat instability and loss, rendering them sensitive to treatment with RNA Polymerase I drugs. A/Prof Wong’s research excellence is shown by the fellowship support she has received, eg NHMRC RD Wright Fellowship, NHMRC Career Development Award and ARC Future Fellowship. A/Prof Wong’s work is supported by Cure Brain Cancer, Worldwide Cancer Research Foundation, The Brain Tumour Charity UK and American Brain Tumor Association.
Prof Melissa Southey OAM
Prof Melissa C Southey OAM is a molecular geneticist (FHGSA) and a founding fellow of the Faculty of Science, Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (FFSc, RCPA). She is Chair of Precision Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health; Director of Monash University’s new Biobanking Victoria initiative; and Research Director of the Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium. Prof Southey is best known for her work with multiple-case cancer families and heritable risk factors that has provided the evidence base for best practice guidelines for the clinical management of individuals at high risk of the disease. Her work has been pivotal to establishing large international epidemiological research resources that are now utilised to address key questions in both adult and paediatric cancer research.
Prof Southey has led multidisciplinary teams in diagnostic and research settings in Australia and internationally, supported by programmatic awards from the European Commission, the National Institutes of Health (USA), NHMRC and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. She has co-authored more than 550 peer-reviewed publications and was named by Clarivate in 2018 as a Highly Cited Researcher. She actively participates on a number of national and international scientific advisory, governance and editorial bodies.
Prof Michael Sullivan
Professor Michael Sullivan is a paediatric oncologist and neuro-oncologist in the Children’s Cancer Centre, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), Melbourne, a Professor of Paediatrics, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, and an Honorary Professor of Paediatrics, University of Otago, New Zealand. He is co-chair of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) Global Health Network, he is the official SIOP liaison and a consultant to the WHO Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer, and co-director of the SIOP-St Jude ARIA Global Childhood. He is past continental president for SIOP Oceania, and a member of the SIOP Advocacy and the SIOP Board of Directors.
Professor Sullivan is graduate of the University of Otago Medical School (NZ), he trained in paediatrics and paediatric oncology in New Zealand and Australia and did his PhD on genomic imprinting and epigenetics in Wilms tumour. He has extensive international and national experience in clinical trials and translational research, in particular hepatoblastoma (international co-chair of the SIOPEL 6 clinical trial), Ewing sarcoma, Wilms tumour, neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. From 2013-2018 he was clinical lead for solid tumours and neuro-oncology at RCH and is co-chair of the musculoskeletal oncology program. Professor Sullivan was previously the chair of the New Zealand Children’s Cancer Network and led the development of the National Children’s Cancer Registry and Late Effects Assessment programmes. Professor Sullivan has a long-term commitment to global oncology especially in the Pacific and Oceania. He led the establishment of childhood cancer twinning programs with Fiji, PNG, Timor-Leste and Laos and continues to support child cancer care in PNG, Laos, and Cambodia. Professor Sullivan is a core member of the WHO Global Initiative For Childhood Cancer (GICC), a program aimed at improving the overall survival of children with cancer to 60% by 2030. In 2020 he co-led the establishment, and is now co-director, of the SIOP-St Jude Children’s Research Hospital Global Childhood Cancer Guideline Collaboration (ARIA), a global collaboration between SIOP, IPSO, PROS, CCI and St Jude to develop evidence-based and resource-stratified guidelines for the treatment of children with cancer in low, middle and upper middle income countries. The ARIA platform includes clinical decision aids and treatment guidelines for chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, supportive care and nursing. In 2020 he was elected as Co-Chair of SIOP Global Health network, a network of over 1500 members in 119 countries that aims to support the development of child cancer services and foster research in low and middle income countries.