Our People

Michele Teng

Associate Professor | Group Leader

Cancer Immunoregulation & Immunotherapy

+61 7 3362 0222

michele.teng@qimrberghofer.edu.au

 

CAREER HISTORY

Associate Professor Michele Teng is head of the Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory at QIMR Berghofer. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne, Australia. Over her career, she has published 106 peer-reviewed primary papers and reviews (10,834 citations, Google Scholar (August 2020); H-index, 52) in high impact journals such as Cancer Discovery, Cancer Research, Nature Medicine, Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology and Lancet Oncology.

Associate Professor Teng’s group investigates how tumour-induced immune suppression impedes the effective treatment of established cancer. Specifically, she is interested in examining the role of T regulatory cells (Tregs), T-cell anergy/exhaustion, and the IL-23-associated cytokine family in the local tumour microenvironment using experimental and de novo models of cancer. In addition, her group is determining how scheduling of immunotherapies can further improve their antitumour efficacy and have developed a preclinical mouse model to assess how different combination therapies impact on tumour immunity and immune related adverse events. Achieving a better understanding of these immunosuppressive pathways, their relativity to one another and the diversity of effector pathways they control will enable the rational improvement of treatments for patients with established cancer.

 

CURRENT APPOINTMENTS

2017-current: Group Leader, Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2019-current: Visiting Senior Principal Investigator, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB), A*STAR, Singapore

2018-current: Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Biomedical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology

2017-current: Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Queensland

 

PREVIOUS APPOINTMENTS

2013-2017: Team Head, Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer

2010-2013: Senior Research Officer, Cellular Immunity Laboratory, Cancer Immunology Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

2006-2010: Research Officer, Cellular Immunity Laboratory, Cancer Immunology Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

 

ORCID NUMBER

0000-0003-1886-9145

 

RESEARCHER ID

S-5055-2016

 

CURRENT AREA OF RESEARCH

The Teng laboratory investigates how tumour-induced immunosuppression controls the three phases of cancer immunoediting. In particular, my laboratory has a strong interest in investigating the immunosuppressive role of regulatory T cells (Tregs), T cell anergy/exhaustion (mediated by checkpoint receptors), the cytokine IL-23 and its associated cytokine family and immunosuppressive metabolites (adenosine) in the local tumour microenvironment using experimental and de novo mouse models of cancer.

A major focus of the laboratory currently lies in determining the optimal scheduling of immunotherapy to maximise its anti-tumour efficacy. Recently, our group provided the first demonstration in pre-clinical tumour models that neoadjuvant compared to adjuvant immunotherapies were more efficacious in the eradicating of metastases in the context of cancer surgery. This study now raises many key questions about the mechanism of long-lasting immunity created by neoadjuvant immunotherapy, the role of the primary tumour, the possible discovery of new biomarkers in the tumour and blood, and the potentially shortened treatment schedule that may deliver cheaper and safer alternatives for cancer patients. Ongoing work in the laboratory now aims to understand the key mechanism and pathways that are activated and/or required by neoadjuvant immunotherapy which may allow for their selective targeting and thus further improve the efficacy of immunotherapies. In parallel, our study has now spurred many of our clinical colleagues to undertake new clinical trials to compare the efficacy of neoadjuvant compare to adjuvant immunotherapies.

Currently, the next frontier in cancer immunotherapy lies in combination approaches and this can potentially benefit a greater proportion of patients with cancer. Although new combination immunotherapies induce better efficacy, they can potentially induce severe immune-related adverse events (irAE) in humans and can lead to discontinuation of treatment and can result in fatalities if not promptly treated. Clinicians are currently faced with the dilemma of what combination immunotherapies to test in different cancers. The laboratory has also recently developed a preclinical mouse model that allows the therapeutic index (antitumor efficacy vs immune-related adverse events (irAEs)) of antibodies targeting various immunomodulatory receptors to be simultaneously assessed for the first time. Filling a need, this mouse model may be used to preclinically assess the therapeutic window of novel immunotherapy combinations in different tumour types to aid clinicians and pharmaceutical companies weigh up their risk/cost–benefit profile. Furthermore, our model offers an opportunity to dissect whether the molecular pathways governing the development of antitumour immunity and irAEs are related or distinct to allow more specific targeting.

 

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS 

  • dissecting the immunological mechanisms underpinning the efficacy of neoadjuvant immunotherapy and cancer surgery
  • assessing combinations therapies targeted at the adenosinergic molecules in cancer and their mechanism of action
  • investigating the role of MAIT cells in cancer
  • assessing the role of the IL-23/IL-23R cytokine pathway in cancers, particularly sarcomas

 

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS

2019-current: European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)

2016-current: European Academy for Tumor Immunology (EATI)

2002-2019: Australasian Society of Immunology (ASI)

 

AWARDS RECOGNITION

2019

  • NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (CDF II)

2018

  • QIMR Berghofer ACRF Cancer Research Excellence Prize

2017

  • Milstein Travel Award to attend the 5thAnnual Meeting of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, Japan (Declined)

2016

  • Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Queensland Senior Medical Research Finalist

2012 – 2016

  • NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (CDF I)

2010

  • Keystone Symposia travel award

2009

  • Awarded travel scholarship to attend 5th International Symposium on CD1d/NKT cells, Japan

2008

  • Cass Foundation Early Career Researcher travel award

2008 – 2011

  • NHMRC Early Career Fellowship

2007

  • Australasian Society of Immunology International Postdoctoral Travel award
  • Selected to attend the 2nd RCAI International Summer Program (1 out of 40 international participants). In addition, one of 10 participants selected to spend a further week as an intern in the RIKEN research laboratories
  • Young investigator award, 8th Charles Rodolphe Brupbacher Symposia, Zurich, Switzerland

2006

  • Cancer Council of Victoria (CCV) Postdoctoral Cancer Research Fellowship

2005

  • Australasian Society of Immunology IgV Scholarship
  • Aegean Conference Travel award to attend Crossroads between Innate and Adaptive Immunity Conference, Rhodes, Greece
  • Jean Gilmore Bursary by the Australian Federation of University Women – South Australian INC Trust Fund (Ranked top 2% out of 142 nation-wide applicants) to attend Crossroads between Innate and Adaptive Immunity Conference, Rhodes, Greece
  • Australasian Society of Immunology International Postgraduate Travel award

2003

  • Australasian Society of Immunology Travel Bursary
  • Australasian Society of Immunology best student poster prize

2002

  • University of Melbourne International Research Scholarship (MIRS) and Fee Remission scholarship (MIFRS)

2001

  • University of Melbourne Undergraduate Coursework Scholarship (Honours)

 

EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND

2002-2006: Doctor of Philosophy, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne

2001: Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Melbourne

1998-2000: Bachelor of Science, University of Melbourne