Dr Adrian Wiegmans
Senior Research Officer
Phone: +61 7 3845 3980
In 2015, I joined the Tumour Microenvironment Lab under the mentorship and with support of Associate Professor Andreas Möller with the goal to increase my understanding of immune signaling and stromal interactions that affect metastatic progression.
As part of this position, I am primary supervisor of a single PhD student. Therefore I have the time to provide excellent personalised supervision for any proposed future students. I have also had influence in inspiring the next generation of scientists as invited speaker Kumon Advanced student program and mentor for high school work exchange students.
I have set in place a pathway to independence guiding my own focused stream of research and have published twice as senior author. Acknowledgment of expertise in mechanisms of metastasis has seen several new and fruitful collaborations formed within the last two years.
I have shown excellent trajectory with escalating scientific output and 20 publications with 1094 citations demonstrating relevant ground-breaking science. The projects I have in place are highly translatable and we are looking to enter clinical trials in the future.
- Tumour Microenvironment
- Associate Professor Andreas Möller
Other current appointments
- Senior Research Fellow Griffith University
- Research Officer, Signal Transduction Lab, QIMR Berghofer
- Post-doctoral scientist, Cancer Immunology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
- Research Assistant, Molecular Genetics Cancer, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
Current Area of Research
- Mechanisms of metastasis
- Targeted therapies
- Molecular biology of breast cancer metastasis
- DNA damage repair
- RAD51 recombinase
Transcriptional regulation of metastasis via a new function for RAD51. The ability of DNA repair proteins to bind DNA and simultaneously bind transcription factors, mean they have the capability to direct gene expression. This is a new function for this class of proteins. We have now published that RAD51 knockdown and overexpression changes the metastatic gene expression profile of cancer cells. We need to decipher the mechanism by which RAD51 is able to do this. We suspect that RAD51 could be a transcription factor (c/EBPbeta), cofactor that helps bind DNA and change expression. In linking RAD51 to expression regulation we will utilize RAD51 mutants that are unable to perform DNA repair function but retain the ability to bind DNA and/or associated proteins.
Targeting RAD51 as a rational therapy. RAD51 is highly expressed in aggressive triple negative breast cancer, prostate and ovarian cancers. We have published a comprehensive review of the present “state-of-play” for RAD51 targeted therapies and found no clinically relevant published molecules targeting RAD51. We are designing and screening new RAD51 inhibitors based on a published and commercially available small molecule. We hope to optimize the binding potential to RAD51 protein, to create a clinical drug. We will test our lead compound for activity in improving current chemotherapy regimens.
I have evaluated aggressive triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) patients and found high levels of the DNA repair protein RAD51 in 73% of patients. These patients are also the ones likely to present with metastasis and poor survival. I have data to show that it also functions in supporting the capacity for the breast cancer cells to spread to secondary organs (metastasis). This is a completely new function for RAD51 but not unheard of for DNA repair proteins.
I am refining a RAD51-targeted drug. As metastasis is the most common cause of death associated with breast cancer, we are hoping the new drug has the potential to reduce or eliminate treatment resistant metastatic relapse (regrowth).
- Professor David Fairlie and Dr Ligong Liu, Institute of Molecular Biosciences, University of Queensland.
- Dr Julia Miskelly, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, Queen’s University Belfast.
- Dr Scott Morrical, Department of Biochemistry, University of Vermont College of Medicine.
- NBCF research Fellow 2012-2016 (PF-13-12).
- QIMR Berghofer Seeding grant 2015-2016.
- Laurence Edward Wilkins Foundation grant (ongoing).
- Metastasis Research Society, Early Career Leadership Council.
- Australia Metastasis Research Society, committee member.
- QIMR Berghofer Bancroft Medal 2015
- Invited to be on the Australia Metastasis Research Society committee (OzMRS)
- Elected into the Metastasis Society Early Career Leadership Council (ECLC) (July 2014)
- Awarded best speaker QIMR Post-doctoral retreat (September 2013)
- Invited PdCCR grant review committee Cancer Australia representative (September 2013)
- QIMR Berghofer internal disclosure of new invention, pre-patent application. RAD51 inhibitor (February 2013)
- Selected speaker at 14th International Biennial Congress of the Metastasis Research Society (August 2012)
- Invited speaker for the Australian Workshop on Cell Death-Lindemann Island (August 2011)
- Poster prize at 20th Lorne Cancer Conference (February 2009)
- Awarded NHMRC Dora Lush post-graduate research Scholarship – 3 years (2006-2009)
- Successfully completed BSc honours, obtained first class honours and dux of honours class (1997)
- PhD, Biochemistry department, University of Melbourne
- Graduate Diploma of Intellectual Property Law, University of Melbourne
- Graduate Diploma of Biotechnology, University of Melbourne
- BSc (Hons), Monash University