Targeting the epigenome in cancer | Prof Mark Dawson

The concepts, challenges and opportunities for targeting the epigenome in cancer

23 September 2020

University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research
Associate Director for Research Translation; Consultant Haematologist; Program Head, Translational Haematology; Head, Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

It is now clear that the most common class of genes mutated in cancer are epigenetic
regulators involved in the control of gene expression, DNA repair and replication. As the epigenome is high dynamic, epigenetic regulators have been embraced as important therapeutic targets in cancer.

Over the last decade, the field has witnessed an unprecedented investment in the development, characterisation and translation of epigenetic therapies. Professor Dawson's laboratory has played a significant role in these efforts and have contributed discoveries to the field enabling the establishment of several multicentre clinical trials around the world.

The enduring challenge ahead involves understanding how best to employ epigenetic therapies to extract the maximum benefit for cancer patients. Central to this ambition is the knowledge of how to eradicate cancer stem cells that sustain the malignancy and are able to survive therapeutic challenge and evade immune surveillance.

In this seminar, Professor Dawson discusses some of the group's recent work to identify novel therapeutic targets in leukaemia stem cells. He will also discuss the lab's work aimed at identifying epigenetic mechanisms to improve anti-cancer immune surveillance.

Professor Mark Dawson is a clinician-scientist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research. He is the program head of the Translational Haematology Program, Group leader of the Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory and Consultant Haematologist in the Department of Haematology. His research interest is studying the role of epigenetic regulators in the initiation, maintenance and progression of cancer. He is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.

After completing his clinical training in Melbourne, Australia he was awarded the prestigious General Sir John Monash Fellowship and Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Fellowship, which he used to complete his PhD at the University of Cambridge. Following his PhD, he was awarded the inaugural Wellcome Trust Beit Prize Fellowship to pursue his research into epigenetic regulation of leukaemia stem cells. His research has identified new therapeutic strategies for a range of cancers and has helped set the platform for clinical trials with first in class epigenetic therapies. He is currently a Professor in the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology and Centre of Cancer Research at the University of Melbourne. He is the Sir Edward Dunlop Fellow for the Cancer Council of Victoria and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar.