Therapy Selection for Patients
The primary role of our laboratory at QIMR Berghofer—as part of the national and international team—is to restore this disruption in cancer cells using epigenetic drugs.
Epigenetics refers to the study of long-term changes of gene expression in response to environmental factors such as diet, stress and lifestyle. Epigenetic changes are key drivers of cancer progression that reveal how the lifestyle choices you make can change your genes.
Associate Professor Jason Lee is the Queensland delegate for the Australian Epigenetics Alliance and is the head of QIMR Berghofer’s Epigenetics and Disease laboratory, where he has a special focus on epigenetic changes and its contribution in cancer, such as melanoma.
Optimal treatment is critical for melanoma patient survival, and the recent advancement of immunotherapy treatments in melanoma have shown improved response rates and survivorship. However, a significant proportion of patients fail to respond or develop resistance to these costly immunotherapy treatments. Therefore, we have developed a novel epigenetic drug that can treat the aggressive melanomas that are not responding to standard therapies.
Additionally, we have also identified a biomarker that can reveal whether a patient will respond to the immunotherapy treatment. The development of this biomarker will lead to a more effective treatment selection process—essentially, we can know which patients to treat with immunotherapy, and which patients to treat with the epigenetic drug.
'Epigenetic drugs can be used in combination with other therapies, and we expect greater number of patients will benefit from this therapy in the future.'