Translational Cancer Discovery

Dr Bill Dougall

Group Leader

The Translational Cancer Discovery Group is particularly interested in engineering novel antibody-based cancer therapies that can directly target certain tumour cells and, simultaneously, also targets key immune cell proteins, therefore combining two cancer therapy approaches in one drug. . We are validating these drug candidates using genetically-engineered mouse models of cancer along with state-of-the art flow cytometry, transcriptomics analysis and other tissue imaging platforms.

Importantly, our approach to cancer drug development is informed by the “reverse translational research” paradigm. This means that we utilise cutting-edge translational experiments using patient-derived materials from on-going cancer clinical trials to help understand mechanisms and design the next generation of cancer therapies.  Currently, we are engaged in clinical trial activities that include experimental treatments for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.


  • Enhancing the efficacy of conventional cancer immunotherapies
  • Determining biomarkers and mechanisms of checkpoint inhibitor response in clinical trials of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
  • Defining the immunosuppressive effects of RANKL/RANK pathway in tumor control
  • Development of new bi-functional antibodies for the treatment of Head and Neck Squamous Carcinoma (HNSCC), non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and colorectal cancer (CRC)
  • Defining the role for specialised lymph node cells (lymphatic endothelial cells and sinusoidal macrophages) in cancer immunity
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Renal Cell Carcinoma
  • Ovarian and endometrial cancer
  • Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Blood Cancers


  • Ashmitha Sundarrajan, Research Assistant
  • Maria Villacanas Jorge, Research Assistant
  • Kimberley Stannard, Research Officer

Internal Collaborators

  • Jason Madore
  • Siok Tey
  • Christian Engwerda
  • Nic Waddell
  • Kyohei Nakamura
  • Vicki Whitehall

External Collaborators

  • Dr Brett Hughes, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital/Prince Charles Hospital
  • Dr Martin Batstone, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital
  • Professor Geoff Lindeman, WEHI
  • Professor Jane Visvader, WEHI
  • Liz Ahern, Monash University
  • Christopher Mueller, University of Strasbourg, France

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the following funding agencies

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (Development Grant)
  • EpimAb Biotherapeutics
  • QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute


Development of new bi-functional antibodies for the treatment of Head and Neck Squamous Carcinoma (HNSCC)

This project is flexible for Honours students, Masters students or Medical/clinical students. Head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) is the eighth most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, with over 1000 deaths from advanced disease each year. For survivors, toxicity related to treatment of primary and nodal spread in the mouth and/or neck (surgery, radiotherapy, […]

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Enhancing the efficacy of conventional immunotherapies

Some components of this project are suitable for Honours students, flexible for Medical/clinical students and entire project is suitable for PhD students. Members of the Translational Cancer Discovery Group were involved in the original development of denosumab, a monoclonal antibody against RANKL, which is now approved worldwide for the treatment of bone metastasis and multiple […]

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