The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Research Projects

Project: Targeting regulatory T cells to treat cancer

Kallies Group

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are a population of T cells that are critical to restrain self-reactive immune cells and protect from autoimmunity. While beneficial in preserving immune and tissue homeostasis, these cells are harmful in the context of cancer as they prevent anti-tumor immunity. Immune cells such as CD8+ T cells and NK cells recognize and eliminate cancer cells. Tregs, however, dampen the function of these anti-tumour immune cells and promote tumour progression. Therefore, targeting or blocking Tregs is a promising therapeutic strategy to boost anti-tumour immune responses. However, given the role of Tregs in autoimmunity prevention, targeting Tregs systemically can lead to catastrophic autoimmunity. To circumvent this, we propose a novel strategy to target Tregs specifically in the tumour site. In this project, we will utilize our expertise to discover mechanisms employed by Tregs to survive and function specifically within the tumour environment. These mechanisms will be harnessed for tumour-specific targeting of Tregs to improve anti-tumour immunity.

This project will employ a series of sophisticated preclinical models as well as molecular methods such as single cell RNA sequencing and ATAC sequencing to assess both the transcriptional and the epigenetic state of tumor Tregs and to discover tumour specific adaptation mechanisms of Tregs. We will test the function of newly discovered genes by using gene reporter and gene knockout mouse models in the context of solid tumour models. While the project will largely utilize pre-clinal mouse models, we also have access to human tumour samples and collaborate with clinicians to ensure clinical translation.

Contact project supervisor for further
information and application enquiries

Project Supervisor

Dr Ajithkumar Vasanthakumar

Project Co-supervisor

Professor Axel Kallies

Project availability
Master of Biomedical Science

Kallies Group

3 vacancies

Viral Infectious Diseases
Host Pathogens Interactions
Cross Cutting Disciplines
Translational and Clinical Research

The work of the Kallies group focusses on understanding the molecular regulation of immunity. Our research has established the important functions of several transcription factors and discovered key molecular circuits in lymphocyte differentiation. Current studies focus on molecular regulation of immune cell differentiation and function in non-lymphoid tissues, including tumors, and on metabolic control of lymphocyte differentiation. For our research, we are using preclinical models of infection and malignant disease combined with next generation sequencing technology and bioinformatics. Our discoveries have opened new avenues to targeting plasma cells as well as T cells in autoimmunity, metabolic disease and cancer.

Kallies Group Current Projects