Epigenetics & Disease

Epigenetic modifications change the pattern of expression in genes. In some cases, this can give rise to cancers. The group research uses small molecule inhibitors to reverse some of these changes and block tumour progression. Having successfully identified combinations of epigenetic modifying enzyme inhibitors that stop the growth of tumour cell lines – making the more sensitive to clinical treatments or reversing the resistance of some cancers to some therapies – the group is now testing these combinations in animal models. The epigenetic studies target breast, ovarian, head and neck and lung cancers as well as melanoma.


  • Molecular epigenetics
  • Chromatin dynamics
  • Regulation of gene expression
  • Transcriptomics
  • Hypoxic signalling
  • Cancer metastasis

Internal Collaborators

External Collaborators

  • Dr Joan Massague, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Dr Gregg Semenza, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, USA.
  • Dr Paula Vertino & Professor Xiaodong Cheng, Emory University
  • Professor Daehee Hwang & Professor Sung Hee Baek, Seoul National University
  • Professor Wonki Baek, Keimyung University, Daegu, Korea
  • Professor Sunil Lakhani, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR)
  • Professor Lewis Perrin & Professor John Hooper, University of Queensland/Mater Hospital Brisbane
  • Dr Donal Brennan, University College Dublin
  • Professor Susan Ramus, University of New South Wales
  • Professor Deborah Marsh, University of Technology Sydney
  • Professor Peter Soyer & Associate Professor Helmut Schaider, University of Queensland/PA Hospital
  • Professor Barbara Leggett, Honorary Group Leader
  • Queensland Emory Development Grant
  • Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Research Centre Enabling Grant Scheme Project Grant
  • QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Seed funding
  • Cancer Council Queensland Project Grant
  • Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners Strategic Initiative Grant
  • Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation (OCRF)


Determining the therapeutic efficacy of epigenetic drugs in ovarian cancer

BACKGROUND Because cancer and many diseases arise from a combination of genetic propensity and the response of cells to external factors mediated through changes to the expression of key genes, it is important to understand epigenetic regulation. The epigenome is crucial to the changes of gene expression and there is now strong evidence that epigenetic […]

Find Out More

Therapeutic opportunities targeting epigenetic-metabolism crosstalks in cancer

Epigenetic and metabolic pathways in cancer cells are highly interconnected. Epigenetic landscape in cancer cells is modified by oncogene-driven metabolic changes. Metabolites modulate the activities of epigenetic modifying enzymes to regulate the expression of specific genes.  Conversely, epigenetic deregulation that occurs in cancer affect the expression of metabolic genes, thereby altering the metabolome. These changes […]

Find Out More

Combining epigenetic drugs with immunotherapy in melanoma

BACKGROUND Whereas advances in immune and targeted therapies have made tremendous progress recently they are effective only in distinct subsets of patient’s or result in the emergence of drug resistance. Also, the prohibitive cost of immunotherapy can be overcome by therapy that uses relatively inexpensive small molecules. Patients suffer considerable side effects and these may […]

Find Out More