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Centenary Institute - Medical Research
Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Melanoma Oncology and Immunology Program

The current focus of melanoma research at the Centenary Institute is to better understand the resistance of certain melanoma to new treatments. We are particularly interested in the role of epigenetic regulation in resistance and the role of new drugs targeting these mechanisms in treatment of melanoma.

Understanding Disease

We conduct translational research on human melanoma with a focus on resistance mechanisms involved against treatment with immunotherapy and targeted treatments.

The report by Lancaster and Nelson from the Public Health Department in the University of Sydney in 1957 was the first to associate sun exposure with cutaneous melanoma.

The incidence of melanoma in Australia is in excess of 12,000 each year. Melanoma accounts for approximately 1,500 deaths per annum in Australia with about 450 of these being in NSW. Prevalence over a 5 year period is in excess of 45,000 people.

Finding a Cure

Surgical removal of melanoma results in cure in approximately 90% of patients, but up until 2010 there was no effective treatment for metastatic melanoma.

Over the past 5 years 2 new treatment approaches promise to reduce the mortality from the disease. One is the use of treatments targeted to aberrant signal pathways in melanoma. The second is immunotherapy based on inhibition of immune checkpoints with monoclonal antibodies.

Current Projects

Increasing responses to Immune Checkpoint inhibitors

  • The role of PD-L1 expression on lymphoid cells in immune responses
  • Effects of epigenetic regulators on PD-L1 expression, lymphocyte subsets and immune responses
  • Effects of irradiation on antigenicity of human melanoma and immune responses

Resistance to targeted therapies

  • HDAC inhibitor and combinations in overcoming resistance to BRAF inhibitors
  • Inhibitors of EZH2 in treatment of melanoma
  • EZH2 in combination with DNA methylase inhibitors in treatment
  • Role of CD155 and CD96 as checkpoints in function of NK cells

Professor Peter Hersey, Head of Program

Phone: +61 2 9565 6130
Email: p.hersey@centenary.org.au

Professor Peter Hersey has extensive experience in both clinical and laboratory based research on melanoma. This has been from positions as a staff specialist and as research director at the Newcastle melanoma unit and C/joint professor of Oncology in the University of Newcastle and from the inaugural chair of Melanoma Biology in the University of Sydney from 2011. His translational research activities have involved phase I-III trials of immunotherapy in melanoma, with modified peptide antigens and dendritic cell vaccines. He has taken a leading role in studies on properties of melanoma cells that make them resistant to treatment and new treatment approaches to overcome these properties. He is generally recognized as a pioneer of immunotherapy for melanoma in Australia and in focusing on properties of melanoma cells that make them resistant to apoptosis. He has participated in most of the key clinical trials on immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors. He is a member of the Melanoma Research Institute of Australia and has received continuous funding from the NHMRC for his research. He is a joint holder of a prestigious NHMRC program grant since 2005 which has been renewed for a third 5 year period. Current interest centers on the role of epigenetic regulators in progression and treatment of melanoma.