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Cunliffe Laboratory: Molecular Oncology

Dr Cunliffe's research focuses upon the discovery and validation of diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic biomarkers that will impact therapeutic decision-making, and improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer or ovarian cancer. Specifically, we are focused on selected disease subtypes that are clinically more aggressive, and often refractory to standard of care therapy.

Work performed in Dr Cunliffe's group was the first to identify the molecular genetic basis driving onset of Small Cell Carcinoma of the Ovary - hypercalcaemic type (SCCOHT), a lethal malignancy arising in very young women.  We were also the first to identify a unique clinical subtype of triple negative breast cancer which aberrantly expresses the androgen receptor, highlighting a novel context of vulnerability, sparking subsequent evidence-based patient recruitment into several clinical trials involving use of anti-androgens.

Our group leverages a combination of genomic technologies, laboratory models, and patient clinical specimens to dissect and understand the molecular basis of disease onset and malignant progression. Our strategies are translational in focus, with goals to progress diagnostic, prognostic and predictive measures toward improved patient care.

Currently, our lab is investigating the role of the TWEAK/Fn14 axis, an under-appreciated cell signaling mechanism aberrantly expressed in ¾ of all breast cancers, which we have shown to have a strong association with poor disease-free survival. Our lab is also part of a new global consortium to define the molecular characteristics of Low Grade Serous Carcinoma of the Ovary (LGSC), a rare and poorly understood disease subtype with poor outcome from standard of care chemotherapy.

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