Our People

Annika Antonsson

Associate Professor | Senior Research Officer

Cancer Control

617 3845 3542

annika.antonsson@qimrberghofer.edu.au

 

CAREER HISTORY

Associate Professor Annika Antonsson is a virologist with epidemiological training. Viruses can cause cancer, and Annika’s research has been focused on human papillomavirus (HPV) and its role in different types of cancer. HPV is the virus that causes cervical cancer, for which a HPV vaccine (Gardasil®) was recently developed in Queensland.

Her current main research areas are oral HPV infections in the general population and HPV in mouth and throat cancer (mucosal squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck; HNSCC).

Some cancers of the mouth and throat are increasing and some of this increase is caused by HPV infection. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and changing sexual behaviour is believed to have caused the increase in HPV-positive tumours of the mouth and throat. Annika is investigating how often HPV in found in HNSCCs and if there are any lifestyle factors linked with having HPV or not to have HPV in tumours.

It is not known how common the potentially cancer-causing viruses are in the mouth of the general population, and this is another area of research Annika is looking into. She has also worked on HPV in skin (normal skin and cancer), infections in breast carcinogenesis, HPV in oesophageal cancer and polyomaviruses in normal skin and skin cancer.

CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

  • Senior Research Officer, Cancer Control Group, QIMR Berghofer
  • Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Queensland

PREVIOUS APPOINTMENTS

  • Senior Research Fellow, School of Medicine, University of Queensland
  • Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales, Sydney (2015-2018)
  • Research Officer (2003-06) and Senior Research Officer (2007-2009), Molecular Virology Group, Diamantina Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane

ORCID NUMBER

0000-0002-7383-8416

RESEARCHER ID

A-2725-2015

CURRENT AREA OF RESEARCH

  • The Oral Diversity Study – Oral HPV infection in vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
  • The Oral Health Study – Oral HPV infection in the general population
  • The PAH/QIMRB Head and Neck Cancer Study – Human papillomavirus infection and risk factors in head and neck cancer patients
  • HPV and microRNA in oropharyngeal cancers – comparing microRNA expression in HPV positive and HPV negative oropharyngeal cancers
  • CHANNEL (Care of Head And Neck cancer Needs EvaLuation Study) – a quality of life and supportive care needs study of patients with head and neck cancer
  • HPV and microbiome in oropharyngeal cancers – comparing microbiome profiles in HPV positive and HPV negative oropharyngeal cancers
  • Breast cancer microbiome – Profiling the intratumoural microbiome in breast cancer and control tissue

CURRENT STUDIES

  • The Oral Diversity Study – Oral HPV infection in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If you are interested in participating please click here.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

  • Oral HPV infection in people vaccinated with Gardasil® and unvaccinated people. We will investigate if people who have been vaccinated against HPV have the same or different HPV types compared to unvaccinated people
  • Natural history of oral HPV infection. We have been investigating how common oral HPV infection is in the general population in Australia, and if oral HPV infection is linked to lifestyle or sexual behaviours. We have also studied how often people get a new oral HPV infection (incidence) and how long oral HPV infections last for (persistence)
  • HPV and head and neck cancer (cancers of mouth and throat). We have been investigating risk factors for HPV in head and neck cancer. We have looked at differences in lifestyle factors and host SNPs in patients with HPV-positive vs HPV-negative tumours and are currently looking into miRNA regulation. We have found high HPV prevalence (most commonly HPV-16), especially in younger individuals and in cancers of the tonsil
  • HPV and oesophageal cancer. Very low prevalence of HPV detected in tumours, suggesting that HPV is not associated with oesophageal cancer (both cancer types squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma)
  • HPV and breast cancer. The viral role of breast cancer is still under debate. In our Australian breast cancer cohort we found HPV, but very low viral load. We found low prevalences of other DNA tumour viruses in this dataset. We are currently looking for viral sequences by deep sequencing of breast cancer
  • HPV in normal skin. Annika was involved in developing a new revolutionary tool that detects the majority of HPV types, the FAP (Forslund-Antonsson-Primer). The FAP has, over the years isolated most known HPVs plus hundreds of new, previously unknown skin HPVs in both humans and animals. FAP has explosively expanded the phylogenetic papillomavirus tree She has used the FAP in several publications to show the very high HPV prevalence and abundance of HPV types present in healthy skin in people of all ages across the globe

PUBLICATIONS

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

  • Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre (AID) http://www.aidrc.org.au/annika-antonsson
  • International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium (INHANCE)
  • International Papillomavirus Society
  • Australian Society for Medical Research
  • Victorian Infection and Immunity Network (VIIN)

AWARDS RECOGNITION

  • NHMRC Career Development Fellowship
  • Garnett Passe Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation, Research Training Fellowship
  • Mazda/Prostate Cancer Foundation in Australia Research Fellowship
  • Swedish Society for Medical Research, Research Fellowship
  • The Swedish Research Council, Research Fellowship
  • Travel awards:
    • QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute (2)
    • The Seymour & Vivian Milstein Travel Award for Excellence in Interferon and Cytokine Research (1)
    • The Royal Physiographic Society, Sweden (3)
    • The Swedish Cancer Foundation (1)

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

  • GDip (Epidemiology), University of Queensland
  • PhD (Virology), Lund University, Sweden
  • MSc (Microbiology), Lund University, Sweden (one year at University College Cork, Ireland)