Researcher Spotlight: Our QIMR Berghofer Researchers

Researcher Spotlight: Our QIMR Berghofer Researchers

Following our Brisbane Lab Tour, we take a look at Cure Cancer Australia funded researchers past and present, who are currently based at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

QIMR Berghofer is a world leading medical research institute. Its researchers focus on four key areas: cancer, infectious diseases, mental health and chronic disorders. Working closely with clinicians and other research institutes, researchers at the institute translate their discoveries into prevention strategies, new diagnostics and potentially life-saving treatments.

QIMR Berghofer has more than 50 state-of-the-art research laboratories and almost 900 scientists, students and support staff. Its location within the Herston Health Precinct, close to hospitals, university faculties and research centres, makes the Institute ideally placed for clinical research collaborations.

Cure Cancer Australia are proud to have funded 11 researchers with 15 different grants at QIMR Berghofer since 2009. We take a look at some of these researchers below.

Dr Bryan Day

Bryan Day is Team Head, Translational Brain Cancer Research Laboratory and Sid Faithfull Fellow, and received grants from Cure Cancer Australia in 2012 and 2015-16.  The focus of Bryan’s research is on understanding the molecular mechanisms which are responsible for the initiation and recurrence of brain cancers. He is looking to develop and test new and effective therapies to treat these aggressive diseases.

Dr Rochelle D'Souza

Rochelle D’Souza* is part of the Translational Brain Cancer Research laboratory headed by Dr Bryan Day. Her current focus is on unravelling the mechanisms involved in glioblastoma in order to identify novel and effective therapies, and improve outcomes for patients.

Rochelle completed her PhD at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPI-B), Germany, under the supervision of Professor Matthias Mann. She and her colleagues are examining a protein known as ephrinA5, which binds to its target protein Eph3. Eph3 is elevated in glioblastoma and other cancers.  Rochelle believes that this protein, as well as its ‘signalling route’ is an attractive target for research.

‘We have innovative and powerful technology to profile thousands of proteins in one shot. Its application to study glioblastoma-signalling therefore holds a lot of promise.’

Dr Camille Guilleray

Camille* studies the blood cancers leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and is particularly interested in how our immune cells interact to protect us from infections and cancer. She has already contributed to research that demonstrates how ‘killer’ immune cells can slow the growth of blood cancers, and that the functioning of these cells can be stimulated by certain immunotherapy drugs.

‘In our project, we aim to identify how blood cancers affect the ‘killer cell’ responses to the drug, test approaches to restore cell functions in patients, and improve effectiveness of the drugs,’ she says. ‘The work should help us design better treatments’.

Camille gained her PhD in Immunology in 2013 at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, before moving to Australia to join renowned immunologist Professor Mark Smyth at his laboratory in the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

Dr Motoko Koyama

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Motoko Koyama is a Senior Research Officer in the lab of Professor Geoffrey Hill, where they use preclinical transplant models to dissect the immunological mechanisms of transplant rejection. Their work aims to improve patient outcome through new therapies to prevent and treat graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). 

Associate Professor Steven Lane

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Steven, too, focuses his research on blood cancers. A haematologist, he was awarded Cure Cancer Australia Researcher of the Year in May. Steven heads up the Gordon and Jessie Gilmour Leukaemia Research Laboratory, researching myeloid blood cancers - aggressive and rapidly fatal blood cancers that are among the most common types of cancer affecting Australians.

Steven’s laboratory’s efforts concentrate on understanding how leukaemia stem cells are able to regenerate (i.e. cause relapse in patients), even after cytotoxic chemotherapy. It is hoped that Steven’s research will allow him to begin tailoring treatments to individual patients, identify new drug pathways. and explore ways to repurpose existing drugs to target resistant leukaemia types.

‘The Cure Cancer Australia grants represent a really amazing opportunity for enthusiastic researchers who want to get their ideas off the ground. The only way we’re going to beat cancer is to think of new approaches, and emerging researchers with new ideas are the key,’ says Stephen  

Dr Jill Larsen

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Jill* has been involved in lung cancer research since 2000, and is highly experienced in molecular biology, cell biology, genomics and bioinformatics. Having completed her PhD at the University of Queensland and a postdoctorate University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW), Dallas, USA, Jill returned to Australia in 2013 to join the Oncogenomics Group headed by Professor Nicholas Hayward, receiving a grant from Cure Cancer Australia in 2014. She is balancing motherhood with her research commitments, so is using the funding over a number of years.

At QIMR Berghofer, Jill’s research investigates two critical stages of lung cancer pathogenesis: early-stage transformation of lung epithelial cells to malignancy, and the metastatic progression of lung tumour cells. Her aim is to identify molecular targets to inhibit the development and progression of lung cancer.

Dr Adrian Wiegmans

When Adrian Wiegmans was awarded his grant in 2013 he was working on breast cancer. In 2015, he joined the Tumour Microenvironment Lab under the mentorship of Associate Professor Andreas Möller with the goal to increase his understanding of immune signalling and stromal cell interactions that affect metastatic progression.

*Rochelle, Camille and Jill's grants have all been solely supported by the Can Too Foundation

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