Dr Lisa Mielke

A fresh approach to bowel cancer research

Lisa recently moved from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne to start her independent research career as a Laboratory Head at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute. “It’s a very exciting time in my career,” says Lisa. “This new opportunity will allow me to expand our work.”

Lisa seeks to identify biomarkers for early detection of bowel cancer, and develop treatments that could include vaccines for the disease.

The research

Lisa’s research investigates the role of immune cells in maintaining healthy bowel function and, equally, their contribution to the formation of tumours.

“We specifically aim to understand the role of the gene known as Tcf7 in the function of immune cells and how this influences the progression of bowel cancer,” she says.

“We appreciate that immune cells can influence the growth of cancer and hope to manipulate these cells to make them more efficient at killing tumours”.

Lisa received her first Cure Cancer Australia grant in 2013. Her current research builds on previous findings and aims to identify new pathways in cells to lead to new drugs for bowel cancer and other illnesses like inflammatory bowel disease.

Highest incidence

Australia has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with more than 16,500 new cases expected in 2017.

“My project’s a fresh incentive which brings together collaborators with immunology and cancer expertise. Without this important funding from Cure Cancer Australia, my work wouldn’t be possible,” she says.

Lisa reflects that the research road is invariably long with each project taking years and many hours of overtime in the laboratory. Therefore, the key to success in medical research, she says, is to be “very passionate and excited about the questions you’re trying to answer”.

Outside of work, Lisa is mother to an infant son. “Juggling work, meeting grant deadlines and being a new mum has been challenging…but it’s definitely the most rewarding time of my life”.


Lisa is funded by Cure Cancer Australia and Cancer Australia through the Cancer Australia Priority-driven Cancer Support Scheme. Her grant is supported by The Denton Family Trust.

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