Immune Imaging

Lab head: Wolfgang Weninger
Location: Centenary Institute

About the Immune Imaging Program.

The Immune Imaging research program comprises four groups whose common feature is that they all employ similar technology – multiphoton microscopes – which can be used to track immune events as they occur in living tissue.

This novel imaging approach provides a new way of studying fundamental questions about how the immune system defends us against microbes and cancer cells. Studies of targeted treatments and vaccines also help us understand their mode of action so we can improve therapeutic strategies for patients.

Research Focus: Melanoma

Dr Kimberley Beaumont is investigating the molecular mechanisms regulating melanoma progression, particularly the role of intracellular protein trafficking in melanoma biology. In addition she is interested in the role of the tumour microenvironment in tumour progression. In her studies she utilizes a 3D spheroid cell culture model, as well as mouse melanoma models. Dr Beaumont specialises in live imaging, confocal and multiphoton miscroscopy.

Lab members: 10 post-doctoral fellows, 1 PhD student, 1 masters student, 4 research assistants.
Funding: NHMRC, NSW Cancer Council, Cancer Australia, Cancer Institute NSW.

Targeting invadopodia to suppress melanoma metastasis

Primary supervisor: Kimberley Beaumont

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Stage IV melanoma, where the disease has metastasised to distant regions of the body, has a poor prognosis with a 5-year survival of 15%. This highlights that metastasis is the leading cause of death in melanoma. Stage II-III melanoma, where there is no distant metastasis, is treatable by surgery, however there is still a high risk of relapse and disease progression to stage IV. Our aim is to investigate inhibiting invadopodia as a novel strategy for preventing melanoma metastasis. Invadopodia are actin-rich membrane protrusions that degrade extracellular matrix and are crucial for several steps in metastasis, including invasion, intra and extra-vasation. We have established an in vitro imaging-based assay to assess melanoma invadopodia activity. We will screen a library of drugs to discover whether any “known” (FDA approved) drugs are inhibitors of melanoma invadopodia, and also test novel therapies that we hypothesise will interfere with invadopodia. Drug hits from our screen will then be tested in a 3D cell culture model that mimics the invasion process, and in a mouse model of metastasis. Given that the drugs we will test are already approved for use in humans, we expect that any promising candidates may be rapidly translated into the clinic.



Haass, Beaumont et al, “Real-time cell cycle imaging during melanoma growth, invasion, and drug response”, Pigment Cell and Melanoma Research, doi: 10.1111/pcmr. 12274 (2014) Paltridge et al, “The secretome in cancer progression”. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, vol 1834, pg 2233-2241 (2013)

Discipline: Pathology
Co-supervisors: Wolfgang Weninger
Keywords: Melanoma, Cancer, Cell biology