Dendritic Cell Research

Lab head: Professor Derek Hart
Location: ANZAC Research Institute, Concord Hospital

The Dendritic Cell Research Group at the ANZAC Research Institute is a recently established research program focused on understanding dendritic cell biology to enable the development of new ways to treat haematological diseases. The group is a translational research group with projects suitable for candidates interested in basic biology or more clinically focused work. The four main areas of focus include:

1.    DC Antigen Discovery and Antibody Engineering

We have identified a number of potential novel biomarkers expressed by dendritic cells. An interested student would design and generate reagents to follow the expression of these biomarkers to discover how they may contribute to dendritic cell function.

Part of our core business is generating antibodies that can be developed for the purpose of using dendritic cells for the diagnosis and treatment of haematological diseases. In this project a student would gain the skills in antibody engineering and phage display. These techniques will be used to develop humanised antibodies and identify novel proteins that bind dendritic cells.

2.    Dendritic Cell Biology – Fundamental and Applied

CD300 is a family of immune-regulatory proteins that can positively and negatively regulate dendritic cell signalling. This project would allow a student to investigate the contribution of CD300 molecules in haematological diseases.

CD302 is a DC specific molecule that plays a role in the migration of dendritic cells. A student would be involved in characterising a gene knockout model of CD302 and the effects on dendritic cells.

AHCYL-1 is another DC molecule that we have found be important in Ca2+ signalling in dendritic cells. Like the CD302 project, a student would be involved in characterising a gene knockout model.

3.     Immunostimulation/Cancer Vaccination

We are developing and optimising strategies for the purification and clinical use of dendritic cells to enhance immunotherapy treatment options for patients with multiple myeloma, acute myeloid leukemia and prostate cancer. The strategies being developed have the potential to be generic eventually allowing some overlap with other disease treatments.

Potential students would participate in the development of therapeutic dendritic cell vaccinations strategies and apply these to preclinical animal models of haematological malignancies. Students would gain experience in several molecular techniques including real time PCR, cloning, in vitro-transcription of mRNA tumour antigens. Additionally the student will be exposed to a variety of cellular immunological techniques including cytokine analysis, generation of tumour specific cytotoxic T cells as well as gain experience in cell isolations strategies using flow cytometry.

4.     Immunosuppression/Anti-inflammatory

Our program is ultimately focused on developing novel therapies for haematological disease such as multiple myeloma and acute myeloid leukemia and understanding the balance between graft versus leukemia (GVL) and graft versus host disease (GVHD) in Bone Marrow Transplantation. We have a number of projects investigating the role of dendritic cells in these conditions using patient samples. 

In particular, we are developing therapeutic antibodies that can be used to deplete activated dendritic cells causing GVHD whilst retaining the dendritic cells required for GVL. Students would gain experience in flow cytometry, cellular assays and animal models and work closely with clinicians actively involved in treating these conditions. There is an opportunity to work as a student on aspects of our novel anti-CD83 therapeutic project.

Lab members: Professor Derek Hart Professor Ken Bradstock, Westmead Hospital A/Prof Georgina Clark Dr Xinsheng Ju Dr Phillip Fromm Dr Pablo Silveira Dr Jen Hsu Dr Robin Gasiorowski Dr Christian Bryant Fiona Kupresanin Ai Phi Vu Kevin Lo Michael Papadimitrious Blake Hsu Cindy Li
Funding: Using Immunology to Cure Patients with Blood Cancers; Enabling Diagnostic and Therapeutic Antibodies for Haematological and other Malignancies; mRNA Prostate Cancer Antigen Loaded Blood Dendritic Cell Therapy

  1. Brown R, Yang S, Weatherburn C, Gibson J, Ho PJ, Suen H, Hart D, Joshua D. Phospho-flow detection of constitutive and cytokine-induced pSTAT3/5, pAKT and pERK expression highlights novel prognostic biomarkers for patients with multiple myeloma. Leukemia. 2014, In press: doi: 10.1038/leu.2014.204.
  2. Favaloro J, Liyadipitiya T, Brown R, Yang S, Suen H, Woodland N, Nassif N, Hart D, Fromm P, Weatherburn C, Gibson J, Ho PJ, Joshua D. Myeloid derived suppressor cells are numerically, functionally and phenotypically different in patients with multiple myeloma. Leuk Lymphoma. 2014; In press: doi: 10.3109/10428194.2014.904511
  3. Favaloro J, Brown R, Aklilu E, Yang S, Suen H, Hart DNJ, Fromm P, Gibson J, Khoo L, Ho PJ, Joshua D. Myeloma skews Treg and Th17 cell balance in favor of a suppressive state. Leuk Lymphoma. 2014; 55:1090-1098
  4. Gasiorowski RE, Clark GJ, Bradstock K, Hart DNJ. Antibody Therapy for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. Br J Haematol. 2014; 164:481-95
  5. Shahin K, Sartor M, Hart DNJ, Bradstock KF. Alterations in Chemokine Receptor CCR5 Expression on Blood Dendritic Cells Correlate with Acute Graft Versus Host Disease. Transplantation 2013; 96:753-62
  6. Hardy MY, Vari F, Rossetti T, Hart DN, Prue RL. A flow cytometry based assay for the enumeration of regulatory T cells in whole blood. J Immunol Methods 2013; 390:121-6
  7. Gasiorowski RE, Ju X, Hart DN, Clark GJ. CD300 molecule regulation of human dendritic cell functions. Immunol Lett 2013; 149:93-100
  8. Bryant C, Suen H, Brown R, Yang S, Favaloro J, Aklilu E, Gibson J, Ho PJ, Iland H, Fromm P, Woodland N, Nassif N, Hart DNJ, Joshua DE. Long-term survival in multiple myeloma is associated with a distinct immunological profile which includes proliferative cytotoxic T-cell clones and a favourable Treg/Th17 balance. Blood Cancer J. 2013; 3:e148
  9. Wilkinson R, Woods K, D'Rozario R, Prue R, Vari F, Hardy MY, Dong Y, Clements JA, Hart DN, Radford KJ. Human kallikrein 4 signal peptide induces cytotoxic T cell responses in healthy donors and prostate cancer patients. Cancer Immunol Immunother 2012; 61:169-79
  10. Li S, Roberts S, Plebanski M, Gouillou M, Spelman T, Latour P, Jackson D, Brown L, Sparrow RL, Prince HM, Hart D, Loveland BE, Gowans EJ. Induction of multi-functional T cells in a phase I clinical trial of dendritic cell immunotherapy in hepatitis C virus infected individuals. PLoS One 2012; 7:e39368
  11. Kassianos AJ, Hardy MY, Ju X, Vijayan D, Ding Y, Vulink AJ, McDonald KJ, Jongbloed SL, Wadley RB, Wells C, Hart DN, Radford KJ. Human CD1c (BDCA-1)+ myeloid dendritic cells secrete IL-10 and display an immuno-regulatory phenotype and function in response to Escherichia coli. Eur J Immunol 2012; 42:1512-22
  12. Brown R, Kabani K, Favaloro J, Yang S, Ho PJ, Gibson J, Fromm P, Suen H, Woodland N, Nassif N, Hart D, Joshua D. CD86+ or HLA-G+ can be transferred via trogocytosis from myeloma cells to T cells and are associated with poor prognosis. Blood  2012; 120:2055-63
  13. Hart D. The delivery of effective therapeutic cancer vaccination. Asian J Androl 2011; 13:183-4
  14. Gibson BE, Webb DK, Howman AJ, De Graaf SS, Harrison CJ, Wheatley K, for the UK Childhood Leukaemia Working Group and the Dutch Childhood Oncology Group. Results of a randomized trial in children with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia: Medical Research Council AML12 trial. Br J Haematol 2011; 155:366-376
  15. Fromm PD, Gottlieb D, Bradstock KF, Hart DN. Cellular therapy to treat haematological and other malignancies: progress and pitfalls. Pathology 2011; 43:605-15
  16. Freeman LM, Lam A, Petcu E, Smith R, Salajegheh A, Diamond P, Zannettino A, Evdokiou A, Luff J, Wong PF, Khalil D, Waterhouse N, Vari F, Rice AM, Catley L, Hart DN, Vuckovic S. Myeloma-induced alloreactive T cells arising in myeloma-infiltrated bones include double-positive CD8+CD4+ T cells: evidence from myeloma-bearing mouse model. J Immunol 2011; 187:3987-96
  17. Ding Y, Ju X, Azlan M, Hart DNJ, Clark GJ. Screening of the HLDA9 panel on peripheral blood dendritic cell populations. Immunol Lett 2011; 134:161-6
  18. Dean MM, Flower RL, Eisen DP, Minchinton RM, Hart DN, Vuckovic S. Mannose-binding lectin deficiency influences innate and antigen-presenting functions of blood myeloid dendritic cells. Immunology 2011; 132:296-305
  19. Ziegler-Heitbrock L, Ancuta P, Crowe S, Dalod M, Grau V, Hart DN, Leenen PJ, Liu YJ, MacPherson G, Randolph GJ, Scherberich J, Schmitz J, Shortman K, Sozzani S, Strobl H, Zembala M, Austyn JM, Lutz MB. Nomenclature of monocytes and dendritic cells in blood. Blood 2010; 116:e74-80
  20. Kassianos AJ, Jongbloed SL, Hart DN, Radford KJ. Isolation of human blood DC subtypes. 2010; In Methods Mol Biol, pp.45-54
  21. Ju X, Clark G, Hart DN. Review of human DC subtypes. 2010; In Methods Mol Biol, ed. S Naik, pp.3-20
  22. Jongbloed SL, Kassianos AJ, McDonald KJ, Clark GJ, Ju XS, Angel CE, Chen CJJ, Dunbar PR, Wadley RB, Jeet V, Vulink AJE, Hart DNJ, Radford KJ. Human CD141(+) (BDCA-3)(+) dendritic cells (DCs) represent a unique myeloid DC subset that cross-presents necrotic cell antigens. J Exp Med 2010; 207:1247-60
  23. Jones ML, Seldon T, Smede M, Linville A, Chin DY, Barnard R, Mahler SM, Munster D, Hart D, Gray PP, Munro TP. A method for rapid, ligation-independent reformatting of recombinant monoclonal antibodies. J Immunol Methods 2010; 354:85-90
  24. Gowans EJ, Roberts S, Jones K, Dinatale I, Latour PA, Chua B, Eriksson EM, Chin R, Li S, Wall DM, Sparrow RL, Moloney J, Loudovaris M, Ffrench R, Prince HM, Hart D, Zeng W, Torresi J, Brown LE, Jackson DC. A phase I clinical trial of dendritic cell immunotherapy in HCV-infected individuals. J Hepatol 2010; 53:599-607
  25. Christensen ME, Turner BE, Sinfield LJ, Kollar K, Cullup H, Waterhouse NJ, Hart DN, Atkinson K, Rice AM. Mesenchymal stromal cells transiently alter the inflammatory milieu post-transplant to delay graft-versus-host disease. Haematologica 2010; 95:2102-10

Developing new dendritic cell specific immunosuppressive strategies for clinical application in transplantation.

Primary supervisor: Derek Hart

The Dendritic Cell (DC) Biology and Therapeutics Group at the ANZAC Research Institute has forged a strong reputation in fundamental human DC research. Using its extensive clinical links and commercial collaborations, it is developing diagnostic and therapeutic antibodies for novel targets with application in clinical transplantation and the treatment of haematological and other malignancies. DC are unique subsets of white blood cells, which are responsible for initiating and directing immune responses by priming and activating alloreactive T cells.  More importantly, DC can induce or suppress immune responses depending on their maturation status.  We continue to define the human DC subsets and elaborate on their function. We aim to learn how DC interact with their environment by studying DC surface molecules and how these molecules influence DC function. Additionally we are developing novel DC based immunosuppressives to develop potential therapeutics, which we currently test in preclinical models of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT), leukemia, multiple myeloma and other malignancies.

This project will involve generation of mouse and human tolerogenic DC using immunosuppressive agents such as rapamycin.  These cells will be studied for their phenotypic and functional characterization in terms of their tolerogenic functions. The following parameters will be measured: [1] viability following immunosuppressive treatment; [2] DC phenotype of costimulatory/activation as well as inhibitory markers, [3] cytokine profiles; [4] ability of immunosuppressive treated DC to induce T cell hyporesponsiveness in a mixed lymphocyte culture.  Subject to successful demonstration of a tolerant DC phenotype, their in vivo function will be tested in preclinical mice models of HSCT.

This project will generate valuable data to help develop methods for targeting DC in bone marrow transplantation.  Student will develop laboratory skills such as peripheral blood mononuclear cell isolation, magnetic- and fluorescence-activated cell sorting, flow cytometry, cell culture to generate tolerant DC, T cell proliferation assays, DC function assays and many other immunological techniques.  The preclinical mouse models for allogeneic and xenogeneic HSCT have already been established in the laboratory.

Discipline: Infectious diseases and Immunology
Co-supervisors: Nirupama Verma, Georgina Clark
Keywords: Immune tolerance, Transplantation, Dendritic cells