Cancer is a disease that directly or indirectly affects the vast majority of Australians and is the second-most common cause of death after cardiovascular disease. The risk of an Australian being diagnosed with cancer by their 85th birthday is estimated to be 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females.
An estimated 14.1 million new cases occurred worldwide and 8.2 million people died from cancer in 2012. The prevalence, high severity of disease and level of unmet clinical need underscored the World Cancer Declaration by the World Health Organisation in 2013 that calls for cancer societies around the world to collectively work towards reducing the burden of all cancers by 25% within the next 10 years.
Who we are
The Monash BDI Cancer Program is led by Professor Roger Daly, a world leader in research into cancer cell signalling networks. This program brings together 16 outstanding group leaders and their research teams who collectively exhibit expertise across different, but complementary, areas of cancer research. To promote cross-program interaction, a number of group leaders from our other BDI programs, such as Infection and Immunity, are also linked to the Cancer Program as Associates.
In addition, the Monash BDI Cancer Program is integrated with the Monash Partners Comprehensive Cancer Consortium (MPCCC.) Supported by the Victorian Cancer Agency, the Victorian Department of Health and Monash University, MPCCC is an allied network of multidisciplinary cancer professionals and consumers which aims to interlink knowledge and efforts in cancer research and best-practice clinical care to improve outcomes for cancer patients. Professor Gail Risbridger, Director of MPCCC, is also one of our program's Group Leaders
Our major research themes will enable us to address some of the most important and pressing questions in cancer research, including:
- Can a systems-level understanding of cancer cell signalling or the tumour microenvironment identify novel therapeutic strategies?
- Can the current spectrum of cancers sensitive to immunotherapy be extended, and can we identify biomarkers of response to immunotherapy?
- How do changes in epigenetic and transcriptional regulators contribute to the different 'hallmarks' of cancer?
The BDI Cancer Program is focused on discovering the molecular basis behind how different cancers develop and progress, which is fundamental to the development of novel and effective preventative, detection and treatment strategies.
Our program adopts a thematic approach to cancer research, focusing on the following areas:
Cancer cell signalling
Our research in this area aims to identify and characterise the molecular events that lead to the transmission of oncogenic signals in cancer cells. Approaches such as mass spectrometry-based proteomics and computational network modelling are used to bring a network-level perspective to these studies.
We explore the complex interplay between cancer cells, the extra-cellular matrix, stromal fibroblasts, and immune and endothelial cells in cancer development.
Cancer epigenetics and transcription
We aim to determine the structure, mechanism and functional roles of specific transcription factors and epigenetic regulators, and how they contribute to cancer development and progression.
This important theme is directed towards exploiting information derived from our 'basic' research projects to develop novel therapeutic strategies and biomarkers.
The BDI Cancer Program undertakes research on a number of different tumour types. This spans different stages of research from investigations into fundamental biology through to target validation and drug discovery. Areas of focus and expertise by tumour stream include:
Understanding the heterogeneity of localised prostate cancer using:
- Patient-derived xenograft models
- Prognostic indicators of aggressive prostate cancer
- defining molecular changes in prostate cancer stroma through application of different 'omics approaches
- Development of 3D in vitro models of disease
- Identification of links between diabetes or obesity and aggressive prostate cancer
Colorectal and gastric cancer
Development of organoid models as improved in vitro experimental models of disease for drug screening programs and personalised medicine approaches.
Characterization of the role of specific signalling proteins in disease development and progression using:
- in vitro and animal models
- Determination and computational modelling of breast cancer signalling networks
- Identification of novel biomarkers of disease subtype
- Prognosis and response to therapy
- Preclinical validation of new drug targets
- Development of antibody-based therapeutics
Identification of subtype-selective biomarkers and therapeutic strategies by phosphoproteomic profiling.
Understanding how epigenetic abnormalities lead to brain cancer.