Dialog Box

Meet our researchers

Associate Professor Ron Firestein

Associate Professor Ron Firestein is Head of the Cancer Centre at Hudson Institute of Medical Research.

A/Prof Firestein is a Physician Scientist (MD/PhD), double board certified in Pathology (Anatomic and Molecular Genetics) specialising in Cancer Research, Oncology Translational Medicine, Oncology Drug Discovery and Biomarker Development. The unifying goal of A/Prof Firestein’s research focuses on identifying new cancer targets and developing therapies for solid tumour malignancies. In this regard, A/Prof Firestein holds 10 patents in the field of cancer therapeutics and his work has been published in scientific journals (including Nature, Cell, Cancer Cell, and J. Clinical Investigation). He was recruited to Hudson Institute of Medical Research in August 2015 as the Head of the Centre for Cancer Research. He leads laboratories focused on identifying new therapeutic targets in adult and childhood cancer. Most recently, A/Prof Firestein was awarded a grant to establish a Victorian-wide Paediatric Cancer Consortium (VPCC) which brings together eight partner Institutes, Universities and Hospitals to enable both research and clinical programs that aim to improve childhood cancer outcomes.

Project: High Throughput screens to detect new targets for ovarian cancer therapies.

Professor Matthias Ernst

Professor Ernst is the Scientific Director of the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute and Head of the School of Cancer Medicine at La Trobe University.

Professor Ernst is the Scientific Director of the Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute and Head of the School of Cancer Medicine at La Trobe University. His research focuses on molecular mechanisms that underpin the growth of cancer cells and his laboratory team is exploring novel strategies to target cancer-promoting proteins with a focus on developing new therapeutics for gastrointestinal cancers. Professor Ernst is also an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and a member of Ludwig Cancer Research

Project: Improving the response of Ovarian Cancer to therapy

Associate Professor Stacey Edwards

Associate Professor Stacey Edwards is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Functional Cancer Genomics Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer.

A/Prof. Edwards received her PhD in molecular biology at the University of Queensland (UQ). Her postdoctoral training was carried out at UQ and the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre in London, funded by an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship.

She was recruited to QIMR Berghofer in 2013, where the focus of her research is to use molecular approaches to identify and characterise new protein-coding genes and non-coding RNAs that drive cancer development. Her research integrates genetics, genomics, chromatin and transcriptome profiling, computational and molecular studies to unravel the complexity of cancer. The scientific impact of her research is demonstrated by high-profile publications in Nature, Nature Genet, Genome Biol and the Am J Hum Genet. Her discoveries have accelerated progress from genetic studies to biological knowledge that may ultimately guide preventative and therapeutic measures.

Project: Leveraging Genomics to Overcome Drug Resistance in Ovarian Cancer.

Associate Professor Pradeep Tanwar

Group Leader, Gynaecology Oncology Program, Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle

Associate Professor Pradeep Tanwar is an NHMRC RD Wright (CDF2) fellow, and group leader of the University of Newcastle gynaecology oncology program.

A/Professor Tanwar initially trained in veterinary medicine, followed by conferment of a PhD in reproductive tract biology from the University of New England, NSW, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard University, USA, in the research of reproductive tract cancers. Throughout his research career, Associate Professor Tanwar’s work has focused on understanding the development of reproductive tract diseases and devising new and innovative ways to treat them.

The quality and significance of Associate Professor Tanwar’s research is recognised in being awarded 15 prizes and awards, including the 2016 Emerging Research Leader Award from the Society of Reproductive Biology (the highest prize awarded to an Early-to-Mid Career researcher in the area of reproduction) and the 2015 Best Clinical Research Presentation Award from the Australia New Zealand Gynecology Oncology Group.

Project: Defining the Roles of Hormones in the Pathogenesis of Ovarian Cancer

Professor Martin K Oehler

Senior Research Associate at Department of Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital

Professor Martin K. Oehler is Director of Gynaecological Oncology at the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Clinical Professor in the Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide.

He qualified as gynaecologist in Germany and completed his subspecialty training as gynaecological oncologist at Westmead Hospital in Sydney and Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne.

Professor Oehler did a PhD in molecular biology and his extensive research experience includes previous appointments at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston/Texas, USA and the Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, UK. He has a special interest in the basic science of ovarian cancer and is the Program Leader for Gynaecological Cancer Research, Robinson Institute, Research Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Adelaide.

Professor Oehler has published a significant number of articles and brings a vast amount of expertise to this position.

Project: Autoantibody Biomarkers for Ovarian Cancer Detection

Professor Peter Hoffmann

Strand Leader & Lloyd Sansom Chair in Biomaterials Engineering and Nanomedicine, Future Industries Institute, University of South Australia

A renowned expert in the large scale study of proteins (Proteomics) and tissue imaging mass spectrometry, Professor Peter Hoffmann is the strand leader in Biomaterials Engineering and Nanomedicine at University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute.

With more than 90 papers published and almost $10 million raised for research, Professor Hoffmann’s area of expertise is focussed on biomarker discovery in cancer, detection of protein phosphorylation and Tissue Imaging Mass Spectrometry.

Professor Hoffmann’s research team were the first to use and publish Imaging Mass Spectrometry (IMS) techniques in Australia, techniques that are used to investigate protein and peptide distributions in human tissue.

More recently Professor Hoffmann formed the spin out company Onco DX to commercialise patented biomarkers for the early detection of ovarian and gastric cancers.

Professor Hoffmann is also Director of the National NCRIS facility for Tissue Imaging Mass Spectrometry.

Project: Autoantibody Biomarkers for Ovarian Cancer Detection

Dr Noor Lokman

Postdoctoral Fellow, Adelaide Medical School, University of Adelaide

Dr Lokman is a research fellow in the Reproductive Cancer group in the Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Adelaide University. Noor recently completed her PhD on the role of annexin A2 in ovarian cancer metastasis with Dr Carmela Ricciardelli and Professor Martin Oehler. She has developed a chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) model to study ovarian cancer invasion in vivo during her PhD studies. Her research is focused on characterising novel proteins involved in ovarian cancer metastasis and investigate the functional roles of these proteins in ovarian cancer metastasis. She also is investigating whether these novel proteins could be used as novel diagnostic and prognostic markers for ovarian cancer.

Project: Autoantibody Biomarkers for Ovarian Cancer Detection

Dr Kristina Warton

Senior Research Fellow, School of Women’s and Children’s Health, University of New South Wales

Dr Kristina Warton was awarded her PhD from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia in 2002.  She undertook her first postdoctoral position at the Centre for Immunology at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, where her work with the then-new technology of gene expression microarrays led to the identification of a novel gene family involved in inflammation. Dr Warton then went on to work in the biotech industry. Her most recent project was to characterise the genome-wide methylation changes in cell-free DNA of blood plasma from ovarian cancer patients, with the intent of creating a blood test for ovarian cancer based on the identified changes. In order to make this project successful, the group paid particular attention to quality control at each step of the protocol, and modified existing methods so that they could be applied to the challenging clinical specimens they were working with. The methods-oriented research paper describing the above work was accessed over 4000 times in the 12 months following publication. The differentially methylated regions found in that project are currently being developed into sensitive PCR assays that will identify blood samples from ovarian cancer patients.

Project: Methylated Circulating DNA in Blood for the Early Diagnosis of Ovarian Cancer


Tackling ovarian cancer in new ways

“The researchers we have funded are taking innovative approaches to tackling ovarian cancer from a range of different angles. We are optimistic that more women’s lives will be saved by the efforts of our researchers.”
- Lucinda Nolan, OCRF Chief Executive

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Dr Ying Zhu

Early Career Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of New South Wales

Dr. Ying Zhu received her B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China, in 2009. She then received her PhD degree in Chemistry from the University of New South Wales, Australia (UNSW Australia) in 2015. Following that, she worked as a research associate in Dartmouth College from 2015 to 2016. She is currently an early career postdoc fellow at UNSW working on the chip-based blood test project.

Project: A Chip-Based Blood Test Combining Machine Learning for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer 

Associate Professor Jason Lee

Research Fellow, Epigenetics and Disease Group, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Associate Professor Lee is a cancer epigeneticist at QIMR Berghofer as well as being appointed as an Adjunct Associate Professor at University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology.

A/Professor Lee completed his BSc (Molecular Pathology) at UNSW in 1999, and his doctoral studies at University of Sydney studying the in vivo role of growth factors in breast cancer. Postdoctoral training at Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, Boston, allowed him to study the transcriptional role of cyclin D1 and estrogen receptor in breast cancer as part of a NIH program grant headed by Professor Bob Weinberg at the Whitehead Institute, MIT.

As a senior research scientist at Seoul National University, Korea, A/Professor Lee has gained extensive experience within the field of cancer epigenetics and transcriptional regulation. He has expertise in an array of epigenetic and molecular techniques including genome-wide analysis (RNA-seq and ChIP-seq). These techniques and expertise in epigenetics allowed him to focus on epigenetic regulation of tumour suppressors and oncogenes in breast cancer metastasis.

A/Prof Lee has published several papers in high impact international journals including Molecular Cell (4) , PNAS (2), AJHG (3), Nature Genetics, Immunity and Cell Reports. He has two patents which are active at present and is collaborating with pharmaceutical enterprises to develop novel therapeutics for several cancer types.

Project: Targeting G9a Methyltransferase to Block Metastasis and Overcome Chemotherapy Resistance

Associate Professor Michelle Hill

Head of Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

A/Professor Hill’s research began a new chapter at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in April, 2017. As head of the Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory, she aims to improve health outcomes by harnessing the power of omics and computational systems biology, and translating the findings to better clinical tests.

Her team is currently working to develop blood tests for early cancer detection, and to understand why obesity contributes to diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration, in order to develop prevention strategies.

Associate Professor Hill obtained her PhD at the University of Queensland then under took postdoctoral work in Switzerland, Ireland, and back at University of Queensland. Her research training focussed on various aspects of cell signalling and membrane microdomain function using techniques in biochemistry, cell biology and subcellular proteomics.

With a passion for translational research, she established the Cancer Proteomics Group at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute on the Princess Alexandra Hospital campus, Brisbane, Australia in 2009. Through interdisciplinary collaborations, the group has successfully developed a laboratory test for amyloidosis subtyping, and discovered serum biomarkers for oesophageal cancer.

Project: Discovery of New Blood Protein Biomarkers for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer

Dr Mriga Dutt

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

Dr. Mriga Dutt completed her Bachelor of Science (Microbiology and Biochemistry) in 2009 from the University of Mumbai, India and moved to Australia to pursue higher education. After completing a Masters in Biotechnology from the University of Queensland (UQ), she worked as a research assistant with Prof. Beate Escher in the field of environmental toxicology. In 2013, she won the prestigious UQ International Postgraduate Award and went on to pursue a PhD in venom pharmacology in the laboratory led by Prof. Richard Lewis at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ. During her PhD, she was introduced to the field of “venomics”, which piqued her curiosity in the application of multi-omics platforms to answer a broad-spectrum of research questions. Mriga was awarded her PhD in January 2018, and she is currently working as an early career researcher with A/Prof Michelle Hill at QIMR Berghofer. In her present role, Mriga is investigating the biomarker discovery pipeline in the context of human health research and is interested in finding solutions that will help improve the transition rate of potential biomarkers from the lab to the clinic.

Project: Discovery of New Blood Protein Biomarkers for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer

Dr Andrew N Stephens

Research Group Head, Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Laboratory, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Dr Andrew Stephens is Head of the OCRF funded Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Laboratory at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research. He provides leadership to the team and oversees the group’s research activities, aimed at the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies for the early detection of ovarian cancer. He has substantial experience in the application of proteomic technologies to the discovery of new disease markers.

Dr Stephens completed his PhD in the department of Biochemistry at Monash University Australia. He held postdoctoral positions at the University of Sydney and at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research prior to taking up the position of OCRF Fellow in 2006.

Project: Multiplex Active Ratio Test for the Detection of Early Stage Ovarian Cancer

Precision Medicine for Ovarian Cancer

Dr Maree Bilandzic

Senior Research Fellow, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Dr Maree Bilandzic joined the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Laboratory at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in 2015. With extensive experience in ovarian cancer research, Dr Bilandzic’s work is focused on the early events controlling the spread of ovarian cancer cells to local healthy tissues – the defining event in the cycle of ovarian cancer progression. The unique laboratory models developed by Dr Bilandzic allow these events to be examined in real time, providing new insight into how early cell-cell interactions dictate the ultimate course of disease progression.

Dr Bilandzic completed her PhD at Deakin University (2007), and her expertise adds a new dimension to the research team. Her ongoing work will facilitate further examination of early-stage tumour markers in ovarian cancer model systems, as well as identifying novel therapeutic targets for better disease management.

Projects:  Therapeutic Targeting of the Leader cell Population in Ovarian Cancer

Multiplex Active Ratio Test for the Detection of Early Stage Ovarian Cancer


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Research is the key to improving outcomes for women with ovarian cancer, and your donation will contribute to the front line projects tackling ovarian cancer head on. This life-changing research needs ongoing support.

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Dr Amy Wilson

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Laboratory, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Dr Amy Wilson recently completed her PhD at Monash University/Hudson Institute of Medical Research in the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers laboratory, where she focussed on repurposing a clinically-approved drug to reactivate immune responses against ovarian cancer. Amy was also responsible for the development of a new ovarian cancer model that allows for accurate correlation between immune parameters and ovarian cancer progression. During her PhD, Amy published a number of papers and received several prizes including the Monash Comprehensive Cancer Consortium Prize for Best Poster in Cancer Research, an Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Merit Award, won the 2018 Central Clinical School 3-Minute Thesis competition and the 2019 Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School Early Career Ovarian Cancer Research Travel Award for Women.

Following completion of her PhD, she has moved over to Dr. Maree Bilandzic’s project within the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers laboratory, investigating therapeutic targeting of a small sub-population of cells called “leader cells”, which lead the cancer attack on healthy tissues.  Amy’s expertise in ovarian cancer models and immunology make her a valuable addition to the team. Her research will further enhance knowledge regarding the spread of ovarian cancer, and potentially identify new ways to prevent disease recurrence.

Projects:  Therapeutic Targeting of the Leader cell Population in Ovarian Cancer

Dr Carlos Salomon

Head of Exosome Biology Laboratory, Centre for Clinical Diagnostics, University of Queensland

Carlos leads the Exosome Biology Laboratory based at The University of Queensland located at the Centre for Clinical Diagnostics (CCD) within UQ Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR). His research interests include extracellular vesicles, ovarian cancer, pregnancy, preeclampsia, preterm birth and maternal obesity in pregnancy and gestational diabetes mellitus. Currently, Carlos holds a senior Lions Medical Research Foundation Fellowship (2016-2020).
With a Bachelor in Biochemistry with Honours in Immunology from the University of Concepcion, Chile and a Maters degree in Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Carlos was awarded his PhD from The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in December 2012. He has completed studies at The University of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (San Antonio, Texas, USA), and The University of Queensland (Brisbane, QLD, Australia) in Regulation of transport systems (2010), Placental function during pregnancy (2011), and Mass Spectrometry (2012), respectively.

As an author of more than 70 journal publications and over 115 abstracts during the period of 2011-2017, Carlos established and leads the Exome Biology Laboratory in which human exosomes can be isolated, characterised and their role elucidated to evaluate their clinical utility as biomarkers of disease and therapeutic interventions.

Project: Novel Strategies to Improve Outcomes of Patients with Ovarian Cancer via Nanomedicine

Dr Andrew Lai

Senior Research Assistant, Exosome Biology Laboratory, Centre for Clinical Diagnostics, University of Queensland

Andrew obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 2008 (University of New South Wales, Sydney) before moving to Brisbane to complete a Masters of Biotechnology (Queensland university of Technology, Brisbane) in 2010. He was further awarded a Bachelor of Applied Science with first class honours (Queensland university of Technology) in 2011 for a project involving the generation of functional recombinant proteins for use as potential chronic wound therapeutics. Afterwards, he undertook a PhD at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation located at Queensland University of Technology and was conferred in 2016 for the investigation of the generation of novel bispecific antibodies to inhibit key cell surface receptors integral for the growth and migration of tumour cells.

Andrew joined the Exosome Biology group in 2016 where he has been a co-author in 6 journal papers. His interest includes the specific isolation and characterisation of ovarian cancer exosome in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of the biology and translating this knowledge into potential new treatments.

Project: Novel Strategies to Improve Outcomes of Patients with Ovarian Cancer via Nanomedicine

Dr Sherry Wu

Head of Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland

Dr Sherry Wu obtained her PhD from the University of Queensland. She then undertook the TRIUMPH postdoctoral translational research fellowship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre. She has strong knowledge in target discovery using large-scale experimental and patient databases, in vitro and in vivo validation models, nanotechnology, and molecular biology techniques for studying mechanisms of action and resistance. Her research focuses on: 1) Developing strategies to overcome immune suppression in ovarian and breast cancers; 2) Developing novel strategies to enhance patient survival in ovarian cancer; 3) Developing novel nanoparticle platforms for tumour-targeted delivery; and 4) Early detection of ovarian cancer.

Project: A Novel Approach to Harness the Immune System to Battle Ovarian Cancer

Dr Andrew Wilkinson

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland

Andrew Wilkinson obtained his PhD training at QIMR Berghofer Research Institute through the University of Queensland (UQ) under the guidance of Professor Geoffrey Hill. His research involved investigating the immunological mechanisms of IL-6 dysregulation following allogeneic stem cell transplantation using various mouse models and clinical trial data. In addition to transplant immunology, he has extensive research experience in other models of immunology through previous work at the Diamantina Institute, UQ on airway and tolerance immunology, Mater Medical Research Institute (Australia) on multiple myeloma, type 1 diabetes, and therapeutically harnessing dendritic cells for cancer vaccines, and concurrent clinical trials by Roche on cancer therapeutic agents at King’s College London (UK). He has presented his work at many national conferences (ASI, Immunotherapy, TSANZ) as well as international ones (American Society of Immunology) and has published 8 manuscripts containing 3 first-authorships. He joined Dr Wu’s Cancer Therapeutics laboratory mid-January 2019 as a post-doctoral fellow. He has since been working on this OCRF funded project focusing on utilising Let7i and siNYMC to enhance responsiveness of ovarian tumours to immune therapy. His prior experience in immunology has placed him in a perfect position to conduct research as part of Dr Sherry Wu’s project.

Project: A Novel Approach to Harness the Immune System to Battle Ovarian Cancer

Dr Simon Chu

Research Group Head, Hormone Cancer Therapeutics Group, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Dr Simon Chu completed his PhD at Hudson Institute of Medical Research in 2005. His studies focused on the roles of oestrogen receptors in the pathogenesis of ovarian granulosa cell tumours (GCT), an uncommon type of ovarian cancer. In particular, he identified how estrogen receptor signalling was affected by other important molecular signalling pathways. This led to discovering a role for another important protein (the X-linked inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein), that contributes to the pathogenesis of not only GCT, but also for the more common epithelial ovarian cancers (EOC). After gaining his PhD, Dr Chu continued his work at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, further examining these important pathways with the aim of identifying new therapeutic targets to treat both GCT and EOC.

In 2007, Dr Chu left the Hudson Institute of Medical Research to take up a postdoctoral position at the Pasteur Institute (Cambodia Campus), where he began training as a molecular virologist, and helped develop a new molecular technique to investigate the incidence of exposure to avian influenza in the human population in that country.

On his return to Australia in April 2009, Dr Chu returned to the Hudson Institute of Medical Research as an OCRF Research Fellow. His work now focuses on investigating the underlying causes of both EOC and GCT. He is currently investigating an exciting potential combined therapeutic option for treating these cancers, which target two important biological pathways in the ovarian cancer cell. This presents a new targeted therapeutic approach for the treatment of ovarian cancer.

Project: Exploring New Therapeutic Options for Epithelial Ovarian Cancers and Ovarian Granulosa Cell Tumours

Ms Trang Nguyen

Research Assistant, Hormone Cancer Therapeutics Group, Hudson Institute of Medical Research

Ms Trang Nguyen completed her honours studies at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research and the Department of Biochemistry at Monash University in 2013. Her work focused on members of the transforming growth factor-beta superfamily and modulating their signalling as potential therapeutic applications in clinical settings. As part of Dr Simon Chu’s research team at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, her role is to investigate a novel combination therapeutic approach for the treatment of epithelial ovarian cancers and ovarian granulosa cell tumours.

Project: Exploring New Therapeutic Options for Epithelial Ovarian Cancers and Ovarian Granulosa Cell Tumours