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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.

With the incidence of melanoma in Australia is in excess of 12,000 each year this area of research is of high importance to the community. 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.

Our approach is to conduct translational research with a focus on resistance mechanisms.  We continue to look at methods of improving the landscape of treatments with immunotherapy and other targeted treatments.

Over the past 5 years there has been significant breakthrough in treatment approaches with 2 new options showing 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. Read below on our projects that look into these specific areas.

Increasing responses to Immune checkpoint inhibitors

  • Overcoming T cell exhaustion during immunotherapy with immune checkpoint inhibitors by metabolic approaches
  • Effects of epigenetic regulators on PD-L1 expression, antigen expression and immune responses
  • Combining chemotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors to increase immune responses against resistant melanoma

Resistance to targeted therapies

  • Repurposing chemotherapy to activate innate death mechanisms in targeted therapy resistant melanoma
  • EZH2 inhibitors and combinations with other drugs in treatment resistant melanoma
  • BET inhibitors and combination with other drugs in treatment resistant melanoma

Melanoma Epigenetic Lab

  • The role of histone and chromatin modifier’s in melanoma progression and treatment resistance.
  • Identifying novel epigenetic regulators of targeted therapy and immunotherapy resistance.
  • Investigating sex differences in X-linked epigenetic regulators of melanoma.

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.

Melanoma Epigenetics

The Melanoma Epigenetics Laboratory seeks to understand how deregulation of epigenetic modifiers can potentially govern all hallmarks of cancer. Using cutting edge techniques such as CRISPR, high throughput drug screening and mouse models, we seek to identify new targets for potential treatments. Working closely with collaborators we will look to identify drugs that can be rapidly screened in the laboratory using our extensive pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo melanoma models. This will allow us to study tumour growth, metastases and resistance to therapy.

Our ultimate goal is to apply the knowledge we have gained through this current work in melanoma and expand into other cancer areas which have poor prognosis, such as cancers of the lung, pancreas and brain.

Search amongst our repository.

For access to all Publications via Pub Med.