Our People

Kum Kum Khanna

Professor | Visiting Scientist

Signal Transduction

+61 7 3362 0338




Professor Kum Kum Khanna and her group have made numerous contributions to understanding the normal functions of the ATM protein, a central controller of cellular responses to DNA damage and how it suppresses cancer. The group also identified and functionally characterized the Cep55 protein as a new regulator of cytokinesis, the final stage of cell division that divides the cytoplasm equally amongst two daughter cells. More recently, they identified two novel Single-Stranded DNA (ssDNA) Binding proteins, named as SSB1 and SSB2, which play a critical role in the maintenance of genomic stability. Through the NHMRC funded Program grant, Professor Khanna’s group have worked actively to bridge the gap between basic and applied research. They have developed a novel combination therapy against breast cancer, involving targeted radioimmunotherapy with a DNA repair inhibitor and chemotherapy. They have also performed functional screens and have discovered therapeutic targets that regulate primary tumour growth and metastasis of triple-negative breast cancer.

Professor Khanna has successfully attracted peer-reviewed funding from national and international agencies. These include NHMRC-funded Program and Project Grants, Australian Research Council, National Institutes of Health (USA), US Department of Defense Novel Concept Award, Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation USA, Queensland Cancer Fund/Cancer Council Queensland, National Breast Cancer Foundation Infrastructure and Novel Concept grants and Australian Cancer Research Foundation Infrastructure grant.

Professor Khanna has served as a panel member and chair on many national and international granting agencies including Human Science Frontiers Fellowship, National Breast Cancer Foundation Practitioner and Early Career Fellowships, NHMRC Early Career Fellowship, NHMRC Assigners Academy and Grant Review Panel, Victorian Cancer Agency Seed and Translational Grant Panel.



2024-current: Visiting Scientist, Signal Transduction, QIMR Berghofer



1998-2024: Group Leader, Signal Transduction, QIMR Berghofer

2010-2015: NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, QIMR Berghofer

2005-2009: NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, QIMR

2001-2004: Sylvia & Charles Viertel Foundation Senior Research Fellow, QIMR

2001: NHMRC Senior Research Fellow – declined

1998: Research Fellow, QIMR

1996: Senior Research Officer, QIMR

1991-1995: Research Officer, QIMR

1989-1990: Research Officer, University of Adelaide



Professor Khanna’s goal is to understand DNA damage surveillance pathways that maintain genome stability in response to endogenous and exogenous sources of DNA damage in the normal and disease state. This is an area of critical importance to cancer research as the pathway controlling the DNA damage response (DDR) are involved in tumour suppression and are believed to be mutated at an early stage in the evolution of cancer. Several genes involved in the DNA damage response pathways when functionally compromised (ATM, BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2) can contribute to breast cancer formation.

Paradoxically, many conventional cancer treatments elicit the generation of additional DNA damage to exploit inherent DDR faults present in tumour cells. Tumours can survive these DNA damaging insults by relying on or activating compensatory DNA repair pathways to repair the lesions, leading to cancer recurrence. The underlying theme of our research program is to exploit this dysregulation of the DDR and oncogenic signalling pathways in breast cancer to develop new targeted therapeutic approaches. Professor Khanna’s team research is multidisciplinary encompassing cell and molecular biology, proteomics, systems biology, mouse genetics (knockout and overexpression models), and preclinical studies using tumour cell lines and patient-derived tumour xenografts. This work is likely to have implications for the development of future cancer therapies with relevance to both killing of cancer cells and protection of normal cells.



  • identified C-Abl as first partner protein of ATM kinase (Nature 1997, 386, 520-23)
  • provided evidence for physical interaction between ATM and p53 tumour suppressor (Nature Genetics 1998, 20: 398-400)
  • provided biochemical explanation for the overlap of cellular phenotypes of the two genetic diseases Ataxia-Telangiectasia and Nijmegen-Breakage Syndrome (Nature Genetics 2000, 25: 115-19)
  • provided evidence for direct regulation of breast cancer susceptibility gene product (BRCA1) by ATM kinase (Cancer Research (2000): 60:3299-304)
  • demonstrated for the first time that certain mutations in ATM are associated with high penetrance for breast cancer in multiple-case breast cancer families (J Natl Cancer Inst . 2002, 94: 205-215)
  • provided evidence for the direct role of protein phosphatase 2A in the regulation of ATM activation and activity (EMBO J 2004, 23:4451-4461
  • functionally characterized a novel protein, named as Cep55, involved in regulation of cytokinesis (Development Cell, 2005, 9: 477-488)
  • identified and functionally characterized two novel single stranded DNA binding proteins which play crucial role in maintenance of genome stability (Nature 2008, 453:677-81)
  • developed a combined modality therapy for Triple-negative breast cancer using radioimmunotherapy combined with DNA repair inhibition for effective cancer treatment (J Nuc Med 2013, 54(6):913-21)
  • demonstrated previously unreported importance of DNA repair gene, Rad51, in progression and metastasis of sporadic breast cancer (Oncotarget 2014 5(10):3261-72)
  • demonstrated CDK-dependent regulation of EXO1 at sites of DSBs, to enable cells to choose a particular DNA repair pathway (Nature Commun 2014, 5:3561)



  • Australian Society of Medical Research
  • Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • National Association of Research Fellows
  • American Association of Cancer research
  • Asia-Pacific International Molecular Biology Network



2001: Ralph-Doherty QIMR Berghofer Excellence in Science Prize

1998: PE Biosystems QIMR Berghofer Research Achievement Award

1996: Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland Travel Award

1994: American Association of Cancer Research Young Investigator Travel Award

1985-1988: Open Research Fellowship from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi

1983: Certificate of Merit for academic performance during Postgraduate studies

1981-83: Merit Scholarship from Panjab University, India in MSc. Honours in microbiology

1978-81: Merit Scholarship from Panjab University, India in BSc. Honours in microbiology



1989: PhD Parasitology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research

1983: MSc Microbiology, Panjab University

1981: BSc Hons Microbiology, Panjab University (India)