Cancer Therapeutics Research Group

Within: Bosch Institute, Discipline of Pharmacology

Head of laboratory

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The main aim of this laboratory is to investigate the interactions between malignant cells and immune cells and their impact on cancer pharmacology.

Tumour-infiltrating immune cells secrete cytokines and chemokines to promote tumour growth, invasion and spread throughout the body. These cytokines also alter the response and toxicity of chemotherapy drugs selected to treat the tumours.

The translational and clinical projects of this laboratory have two main research aims: identification of new molecular targets in cancer and elucidating how inflammation regulates chemotherapy drug response.

Research achievements

Inflammation and Chemotherapy Drug response

Tumour and immune cells contribute to the elevated cytokine concentrations assocated with cancer progression. Studies conducted by Dr Charles and collaborators at University of Sydney have shown that tumour-associated inflammation reduced the hepatic drug metabolism of chemotherapy drugs, which leads to increased incidence of serious toxicities.

More recent studies have shown that this inflammation not only affects drug metabolising enzymes, but can also decrease the expression of drug transporters and signalling pathways required for the distribution and efficacy of many different chemotherapeutic agents.

We are currently at the stage of testing the functional relevance of these findings in animal models and in clinical studies of patients with cancer.

Tumour-macrophage interactions

Tumour-associated macrophages are one of the main immune cells in cancer that support tumour growth and metastasis in most human cancers.

Malignant cells secrete cytokines and chemokines that alter the phenotype and behaviour of tumour-associated macrophages to promote tumour growth and orchestrate the immunosuppressant behaviour of the adaptive immune responses. Inhibiting the communication between cancer cells and tumour-associated macrophages is becoming an exciting potential target for cancer intervention strategies.

We are currently in the preclinical stages of this project.