Associate Professor Michele Teng is head of the Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Australia. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne, Australia. Her group is investigating 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.
ORCID number: 0000-0003-1886-9145
Researcher ID: S-5055-2016
Current QIMR Berghofer appointment
- 2017 – current: Group Leader, Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia
- 2014 – current: Immunology and Infectious Disease Seminar Co-ordinator
Other current appointments
- 2017 – current: Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Queensland
- 2013 – 2017: Team Head, Cancer Immunoregulation and Immunotherapy Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, Australia
- 2010 – 2013: Senior Research Officer, Cellular Immunity Laboratory, Cancer Immunology Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Victoria, Australia
- 2006 – 2010: Research Officer, Cellular Immunity Laboratory, Cancer Immunology Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Victoria, Australia
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.
- Demonstrated in pre-clinical models that neoadjuvant compared to adjuvant immunotherapy was superior in eradicating metastases & discovered a biomarker of response. This finding is now being validated in new clinical trials set up by oncologists nationally & abroad.
- Developed a pre-clinical mouse model to assess the therapeutic index of novel immunotherapies that induce severe immune-related adverse events. Currently collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to test the safety of their 2nd generation immuno-oncology agents.
- Established ground-breaking insights on IL-23 in oncology which provided platform for AMGEN to initiate clinical trials using anti-human IL23 in autoimmune diseases. As predicted from my preclinical models, anti-IL23 had good safety profile & demonstrated efficacy in phase III trials.
- A seminal review (TENG MW et al., Cancer Res, 2015) which discusses the stratification of the tumour microenvironment according to tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes and PDL1 expression to allow rational combination immunotherapies to be designed was the 2nd most cited article in Cancer Research in 2015.
- 2017 – current: Society for Leukocyte Biology
- 2016 – current: Member of Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR)
- 2016 – current: European Academy for Tumor Immunology (EATI)
- 2002 – current: Australasian Society of Immunology (ASI)
- 2017: Milstein Travel Award to attend the 5th Annual Meeting of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, Japan
- 2016: Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) Queensland Senior Medical Research Finalist
- 2012 – 2016: NH&MRC 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: NH&MRC Early Career Fellowship
- 2007: Australasian Society of Immunology International Postdoctoral Travel award
- 2007: Selected to attend the 2nd RCAI International Summer Program (1 out of 40 international participants). In addition, 1 of 10 participants selected to spend a further week as an intern in the RIKEN research laboratories.
- 2007: 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
- 2005: Aegean Conference Travel award to attend Crossroads between Innate and Adaptive Immunity Conference, Rhodes, Greece
- 2005: 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
- 2005: Australasian Society of Immunology International Postgraduate Travel award
- 2003: Australasian Society of Immunology Travel Bursary
- 2003: 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)
- 2006: Doctor of Philosophy, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia
- 2001: Bachelor of Science (Honours), University of Melbourne, Australia
- 1998 – 2000: Bachelor of Science, University of Melbourne, Australia