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Melanoma is one of Australia’s most common cancers with over 13,000 new diagnoses per year in Australia. In one out of ten patients, the melanoma diagnosis comes too late, as the melanoma has already spread throughout the body, drastically diminishing the chances of survival. With more than 1,700 Australians dying every year from melanoma - one every 5 hours, we urgently require a better understanding of how the melanoma spreads and why certain tumours respond to current treatment while others are resistant to treatment.

As part of the Centre for Precision Health, our research aims to develop non-invasive blood-based tests to enable personalised cancer monitoring and facilitate therapeutic decisions. Our focus is on the analysis of biomarkers such as circulating tumour cells (CTCs), circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA), extracellular vesicles and autoantibodies.

Historically, our research has focused on melanoma biomarkers. Given the interest across the oncology field in liquid biopsies, we are now applying our expertise for research projects in lung, ovarian, breast and other cancers.

We use cutting-edge methods such as droplet digital PCR, next-generation sequencing, microfluidic devices and single-cell RNA sequencing that allow sensitive measurement of these rare cells and DNA mutations. Translational projects explore the relationship between these biomarkers and disease progression, drug resistance, tumour genetic evolution and treatment outcomes, to further their clinical implications and define their specific context of use.

For ways to support us or for more information, contact Associate Professor Elin Gray

Current projects

  • Understanding the heterogeneity of circulating melanoma cells
  • Identification of melanoma-specific signature that can predict response to immunotherapies
  • Exploring therapeutic targets for the treatment of metastatic uveal melanoma
  • Liquid biopsy for personalised monitoring of melanoma patients
  • Autoantibodies for early diagnosis of melanoma
  • Autoantibodies as prognostic biomarkers for melanoma
  • Autoantibodies as predictors of immunotherapy response and toxicity
  • Uveal melanoma: bypassing an invasive eye biopsy through development of a novel blood test
  • Exploring therapeutic targets for the treatment of metastatic uveal melanoma
  • Extracellular vesicles as a biomarker of drug resistance
  • Liquid biopsy to predict and monitor response to neoadjuvant therapy in high grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC)
  • Blood based biomarkers of response to immunotherapy in advanced lung cancer

Research Team

PhD candidates

  • Mr Aaron Beasley
  • Mr Michael Clark
  • Dr Muhammad Adnan Khattak
  • Dr Lydia Warburton
  • Mr Emmanuel Acheampong
  • Mr DuBois Asante
  • Dr Afaf Abed
  • Ms Neha Pulyani
  • Mr Sanjeev Adhikari
  • Mr John Taylor

Masters by Research candidates

  • Ms Desiree Sexauer
  • Mr Manjot Singh

Key publications

  • Marsavela G, Lee J, Calapre L, Wong SQ, Pereira MR, McEvoy AC, Reid AL, Robinson C, Warburton L, Abed A, Khattak MA, Meniawy TM, Dawson SJ, Sandhu S, Carlino MS, Menzies AM, Scolyer RA, Long GV, Amanuel B, Millward M, Ziman MR, Rizos H and Gray ES. Circulating Tumor DNA Predicts Outcome from First-, but not Second-line Treatment and Identifies Melanoma Patients Who May Benefit from Combination Immunotherapy. Clin Cancer Res. 2020; 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-20-2251.
  • Abed A, Calapre L, Lo J, Correia S, Bowyer S, Chopra A, Watson M, Khattak MA, Millward M and Gray ES. Prognostic value of HLA-I homozygosity in patients with non-small cell lung cancer treated with single agent immunotherapy. J Immunother Cancer. 2020; 8(2) 10.1136/jitc-2020-001620.
  • Warburton L, Meniawy TM, Calapre L, Pereira M, McEvoy A, Ziman M, Gray ES and Millward M. Stopping targeted therapy for complete responders in advanced BRAF mutant melanoma. Sci Rep. 2020; 10(1):18878 10.1038/s41598-020-75837-5.
  • Clark ME, Rizos H, Pereira MR, McEvoy AC, Marsavela G, Calapre L, Meehan K, Ruhen O, Khattak MA, Meniawy TM, Long GV, Carlino MS, Menzies AM, Millward M, Ziman M and Gray ES. Detection of BRAF splicing variants in plasma-derived cell-free nucleic acids and extracellular vesicles of melanoma patients failing targeted therapy therapies. Oncotarget. 2020; 11(44).
  • Lee JH, Menzies AM, Carlino MS, McEvoy AC, Sandhu S, Weppler AM, Diefenbach RJ, Dawson SJ, Kefford RF, Millward MJ, Al-Ogaili Z, Tra T, Gray ES, Wong SQ, Scolyer RA, Long GV and Rizos H. Longitudinal Monitoring of ctDNA in Patients with Melanoma and Brain Metastases Treated with Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors. Clin Cancer Res. 2020; 26(15):4064-4071 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-3926.
  • Khattak MA, Abed A, Reid AL, McEvoy AC, Millward M, Ziman M and Gray ES. Role of Serum Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) as a Potential Biomarker of Response to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor Therapy in Advanced Melanoma: Results of a Pilot Study. Front Oncol. 2020; 10:1041 10.3389/fonc.2020.01041.
  • Johansson PA, Brooks K, Newell F, Palmer JM, Wilmott JS, Pritchard AL, Broit N, Wood S, Carlino MS, Leonard C, Koufariotis LT, Nathan V, Beasley AB, Howlie M, Dawson R, Rizos H, Schmidt CW, Long GV, Hamilton H, Kiilgaard JF, Isaacs T, Gray ES, Rolfe OJ, Park JJ, Stark A, Mann GJ, Scolyer RA, Pearson JV, van Baren N, Waddell N, Wadt KW, McGrath LA, Warrier SK, Glasson W and Hayward NK. Whole genome landscapes of uveal melanoma show an ultraviolet radiation signature in iris tumours. Nat Commun. 2020; 11(1):2408 10.1038/s41467-020-16276-8.
  • Beasley AB, Bentel J, Allcock RJN, Vermeulen T, Calapre L, Isaacs T, Ziman MR, Chen FK and Gray ES. Low-Pass Whole-Genome Sequencing as a Method of Determining Copy Number Variations in Uveal Melanoma Tissue Samples. J Mol Diagn. 2020; 22(3):429-434 10.1016/j.jmoldx.2019.12.005.
  • Aya-Bonilla CA, Morici M, Hong X, McEvoy AC, Sullivan RJ, Freeman J, Calapre L, Khattak MA, Meniawy T, Millward M, Ziman M and Gray ES. Detection and prognostic role of heterogeneous populations of melanoma circulating tumour cells. Br J Cancer. 2020; 122(7):1059-1067 10.1038/s41416-020-0750-9.

More publications by the team

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