The Melanoma Cell Biology group is focused on investigating the molecular mechanisms regulating melanoma progression, particularly the role of protein trafficking in melanoma growth and metastasis. We specialise in 3D cell culture models, live imaging, confocal and multi-photon microscopy.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and Australia has the highest incidence in the world, with 11,569 people diagnosed in 2011. Roughly 1,500 people in Australia will die from melanoma each year. Surgical removal of stage I melanoma results in excellent survival rates. In contrast, stage IV melanoma, where the disease has metastasised to distant regions of the body, has a poor prognosis with a 5-year survival of 9-27%. Stage II-III melanoma does not involve distant metastasis and can be treated surgically, however there is still significant risk of relapse and disease progression to the stage IV disease. The stage IV disease is extremely resistant to standard cancer therapies, and although there has been recent success with new targeted therapies and immunotherapies, problems with resistance, low response rates and toxicity mean we are still a long way from a cure.
We are investigating the genes and processes involved in metastasis with the hope of developing new therapeutic strategies that may prevent melanoma metastasis. We are also investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying melanoma resistance to targeted therapies, and are testing novel combination therapies as a way of preventing the development of resistance.
3D Melanoma FUCCI spheroid model:
3D rendering of a melanoma spheroid. The cells are transduced with the FUCCI system (upper left hand corner). The red cells in the centre of the spheroid are arrested in G1 due to hypoxia and nutrient deprivation, while the cells in the outer layers of the spheroid are proliferating.
Dr Kimberley Beaumont
Phone: +61 (02) 95656258
Dr Beaumont received her PhD from the University of Queensland in 2009 under the supervision of Professor Rick Sturm. In her PhD work she characterised the function of Melanocortin-1 Receptor (MC1R) gene variants, which are associated with red hair and skin cancer risk. Notably, she published two landmark papers on MC1R variant alleles; one in 2005 which has been cited 97 times (Beaumont, HMG, 2005), and one in 2007 which has been cited 78 times (Beaumont, HMG, 2007). She continued her studies on pigmentation genes, and during a 2-year post-doctoral position under the supervision of Professor Jenny Stow at the University of Queensland she identified the role of the Rab17 trafficking protein in melanocyte biology and pigmentation.
In 2011 Dr Beaumont moved to the Centenary Institute in Sydney to work within the Experimental Melanoma Therapy group led by Associate Professor Nikolas Haass. From her work at Centenary she published a novel model combining the Fluorescence Ubiquitintation Cell Cycle Indicator (FUCCI) sytem with the 3D spheroid model; this is the first time these techniques have been combined in melanoma, and led to new observations about the role of the cell cycle and the tumour microenvironment in drug responses and melanoma cell migration (Haass, Beaumont et al, PCMR, 2014). Since 2014 Dr Beaumont has lead the Melanoma Cell Biology group within the Immune Imaging Program, led by Professor Wolfgang Weninger. She has supervised several undergraduate and post-graduate students, has initiated local, national and international collaborations, and is currently leading a small team with one research assistant and a post-doctoral researcher.