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Health Sciences profile

Dr Augustine Chen

PositionResearch Fellow
DepartmentDepartment of Biochemistry
Research summaryPost-transcriptional regulation in mammalian cells; Cancer research


Dr Chen is based in the Cancer Genetics Laboratory, headed by Prof Parry Guilford. His research themes to date encompass gene expression regulation in human cells at the protein and RNA levels, in human diseases. He is currently working on a HRC funded project in search of drugs that will destroy E-cadherin deficient cancer cells but not healthy cells with normal levels of the protein. E-cadherin is a protein that suppresses tumour growth and is often silenced in cancer cells. The approach of targeting cancer cells devoid of a tumour suppressor protein require an unconventional approach termed synthetic lethality which seeks to exploit vulnerabilities within the cancer cells created by the loss of the E-cadherin protein otherwise not seen in normal cells. Indeed, this has been successfully demonstrated in the discovery of PARP inhibitors, which demonstrated preferential killing of breast cancers cells deficient of BRCA1 and BRCA2 tumour suppressor proteins. The search for the synthetic lethal partner to E-cadherin involving RNAi and drug screen approaches to date has shown promise of several potential targets using existing drugs. We're at an exciting time in cancer research in the search for efficacious drugs that will selectively target tumours and at the same time less toxic to patients.


Single, A., Beetham, H., Telford, B. J., Guilford, P., & Chen, A. (2015). A comparison of real-time and endpoint cell viability assays for improved synthetic lethal drug validation. Journal of Biomolecular Screening, 20(10), 1286-1293. doi: 10.1177/1087057115605765

Telford, B. J., Chen, A., Beetham, H., Frick, J., Brew, T. P., Gould, C. M., Single, A., Godwin, T., … Guilford, P. (2015). Synthetic lethal screens identify vulnerabilities in GPCR signalling and cytoskeletal organization in E-cadherin-deficient cells. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 14(5), 1213-1223. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.mct-14-1092

Waugh, E., Chen, A., Baird, M. A., Brown, C. M., & Ward, V. K. (2014). Characterization of the chemokine response of RAW264.7 cells to infection by murine norovirus. Virus Research, 181, 27-34. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2013.12.025

Chen, A., Beetham, H., Black, M. A., Priya, R., Telford, B. J., Guest, J., Wiggins, G. A. R., Godwin, T. D., … Guilford, P. J. (2014). E-cadherin loss alters cytoskeletal organization and adhesion in non-malignant breast cells but is insufficient to induce an epithelial-mesenchymal transition. BMC Cancer, 14, 552. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-14-552

Chen, A., T-Thienprasert, N. P., & Brown, C. M. (2014). Prospects for inhibiting the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression in hepatitis B virus. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(25), 7993-8004. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i25.7993