Joanne Bowen

Professor Joanne Bowen


School of Biomedicine

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Professor Joanne Bowen
B.Hlth.Sci (Hons), PhD (Medicine), M.Phil (Clin Sci), Grad.Cert. Public Health, Grad. Cert. Online Learning

Prof Bowen's research focuses on mechanisms and management of cancer therapy-related toxicities, with a special interest in gastrointestinal adverse effects. She was awarded an NHMRC Australian-based Biomedical Training Fellowship (2009 – 2012) to conduct novel research aimed at discovery of peripheral blood biomarkers associated with risk of toxicity during treatment for oesophageal cancer. Her recent work has lead to development of preclinical models for testing interventions for gastrointestinal toxicity utilized by the pharmaceutical industry. She is co-head of the highly active Cancer Treatment Toxicities Group which supports diverse projects across the field of supportive oncology and training of the next generation of researchers.

As co-head of the Cancer Treatment Toxicities Group (@ToxicitiesGroup for Twitter updates) in the School of Biomedicine, I am responsible for a program of research aimed at better managing side effects of cancer therapy. Our group investigates both the underlying mechanisms and the treatment approaches to prevention of some of the most common toxicities of cancer therapies including diarrhoea, vomiting, neuroinflammation and bone loss. My particular interest is in how the gastrointestinal tract responds to exposure to chemotherapy, radiation and small molecule inhibitors used in treatment of solid tumours, and how the microbiome can influence the incidence and severity of injury. My current projects focus on establishing new interventions for mitigation of gastrointestinal side effects that target interactions between the gut microbiome and immune system at the level of the mucosal barrier. Our group members include undergraduate students, through to Honours and PhD, as well as postdoctoral researchers. We conduct research projects using cell culture and organoid models, transgenic rodents, and in patient cohorts (detailed below). Our mission is to improve cancer outcomes through personalising treatment and supportive care.

Quantitative microscopyCell adhesion protein expressionIntestinal physiology changes related to diarrhoea

Gut-brain links in treatment toxicities

Images: Techniques and pathways under investigation. Top panel - Quantitiative histology; Cell junctional protein analysis; Intestinal physiology underpinning chemotherapy symptoms. Bottom image - Links between gut toxicity and central neuroinflammation (from group postdoc, Hannah Wardill, Cancer Treat Rev 2015)


Research Project 1

Title: Gut microbiome composition as a predictive marker for cancer treatment outcomes

Project description: Patients with cancer are at high risk of microbiome dysbiosis (lack of bacterial diversity and/or overabundance of pathogenic species) due to frequent hospital visits, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, other medications (notably prophylactic antibiotics), changes in diet, and the presence of cancer itself. Having a diverse gut microbiota is considered protective against chemotherapy-induced infections, and pre-clinical work points to bacterial diversity as a key determinant of tumour response, gastrointestinal toxicity, and neuroinflammation. Thus the objective of this project is to explore links between microbiota, inflammatory responses, and chemotherapy treatment outcomes. Research techniques include mouse models of cancer treated with chemotherapy, bacterial gene sequencing, and a patient trial analysing longitudinal changes in microbiome composition following different cancer therapies.

Projects available for: Honours / HDR

Location: Helen Mayo Building

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2

Special requirements: Nil


Research Project 2

Title: Toll-like receptor 4 and cancer treatment toxicities

Project description: Drugs and radiation used to treat cancer commonly cause damage to the normal gastrointestinal lining, leading to adverse symptoms such as intestinal inflammation and ulceration. There are currently no effective preventative strategies and a lack of understanding surrounding the mechanisms initiating damage. Recently, the innate immunity receptor, Toll-like Receptor 4 (TLR4), has been proposed to play a role in cancer therapy-induced gastrointestinal damage as well as tumour response. As such, this project will investigate the effects of TLR4 gene deletion, or pharmacological inhibition, on the development of gastrointestinal inflammation and the response to colorectal cancer cells following chemotherapy. This project will use rodent cancer models treated with irinotecan and novel formulations of SN-38. Research techniques include histological analysis, cell death assays, immunofluorescence, real time PCR and small animal handling. 

Projects available for: Third Year / Honours / HDR

Location: Helen Mayo Building

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2

Special requirements: Nil


Research Project 3

Title: Role of microbial manipulation on diarrhoea risk during treatment with EGFR inhibitors for breast cancer

Project description: Breast cancers that overexpress the human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER2) are treated by targeted small molecule inhibitors such as neratinib. HER2 and other members of the growth factor family are also expressed in the intestines, and treatment with neratinib is associated with chronic low-grade enterocolitis. We have developed a rat model in conjunction with our industry partners to explore the relationship between the composition of resident microbes in the intestine and the risk of severe treatment-related diarrhoea. The project will explore how different antibiotics and probiotics impact the microbiome and how this affects onset and severity of neratinib diarrhoea. Techniques will include histopathology, immunohistochemistry and mucosal barrier permeability analysis.  

Projects available for: HDR (PhD and M.Phil)

Location: Helen Mayo Building

Research project start: Semester 1 and 2

Special requirements: Nil

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2017 Associate Professor University of Adelaide
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2016 Award Telstra Women's Business Public Sector and Academia Award
    2014 Award MASCC Young Investigator Award
    2009 Award SA Young Tall Poppy Science Award Australian Institute of Policy and Science
    2009 Fellowship NHMRC Australian-based biomedical research fellowship University of Adelaide Australia
    2008 Award MASCC Young Investigator Award
    2007 Award MASCC Young Investigator Award
    2006 Award MASCC Young Investigator of the Year
    2003 Scholarship Royal Adelaide Hospital Research Committee Dawes Postgraduate Research Scholarship
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2010 - 2012 University of Adelaide Australia M.Phil (Clin Sci)
    2002 - 2006 University of Adelaide Australia PhD
    1997 - 2001 University of Adelaide Australia B. Hlth.Sci (Hons)
  • Certifications

    Date Title Institution name Country
    Grad. Cert. Online Learning (Higher Education) University of Adelaide Australia
    Grad. Cert. Public Health Charles Darwin University Australia
  • Research Interests


Prof Bowen’s research program has been funded by NHMRC, MRFF, Cancer Council SA, SA Cancer Research Collaborative, Cure Cancer Australia, Australian Dental Research Foundation, the Ray and Shirl Norman Cancer Research Trust, the Royal Adelaide Hospital Research Committee, Flinders University, and University of Adelaide. With her co-investigators, funding received has totalled over $3 Million dollars. Industry has been a major funder and continues to be an area of increasing linkage. Current and previous industry partners include GlaxoSmithKline (CI), Helsinn Healthcare (CI), Pfizer Pharmaceuticals (PI), Puma Biotechnology (PI), Zhendong, Pharmaceuticals (AI), CSIRO (CI), AstraZeneca (CI), Danone (CI) and Pantheryx (CI).        


In 2011, Prof Bowen was appointed to lecturer in Physiology, University of Adelaide, promoted to senior lecturer in 2015, and then associate professor in 2017, which has provided opportunities to teach and train the next generation of researchers. She teaches within the B.HlthMedSc program, particularly involved in delivery of gastrointestinal physiology content. She was Deputy Chair of the Faculty Gender Equity and Diversity committee (2017-2019) and implements inclusive practices for courses she teaches.

Prof Bowen is the Faculty Honours Coordinator and a Senior Postgraduate Coordinator for the Adelaide Medical School. Through these roles she is able to play a leadership role in training the next generation of health and medical science researchers.

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2021 Co-Supervisor Uncovering novel mechanisms of chemotherapy-induced bone destruction Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Bailey Michael Deverell
    2020 Co-Supervisor Epigenetic regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal toxicity. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Taylor Jade Wain
    2019 Principal Supervisor The Role of TLR4 in Response to Chemotherapy Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Elise Ellen Bruning
    2019 Principal Supervisor The microbiome-gut-brain axis in chemotherapy-induced cognitive impairment Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Courtney Brooke Subramaniam
    2019 Principal Supervisor Role of Gut Microbiome-Immune Axis in Response to Radiotherapy and Development and Severity of Radiotherapy-Induced Oral Mucositis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Ghanyah Hamid Hussein Al-Qadami
    2018 Principal Supervisor Using silica nanoparticles to target inflammation in pre-clinical models of intestinal disease Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Shu Yie Janine Tam
    2017 Principal Supervisor Does an individuals microbiome profile affect susceptibility to gut injury from chemotherapy Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Kate Secombe
    2016 Co-Supervisor The Link between Aquaporins and Cerbo Spinal Fluid Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Pak Hin Chow
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2016 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Identifying potential genetic, phenotypic and epigenetic predictive markers in the Toll-like receptor/Interleukin-1 domain innate immune signalling pathway for severe gastrointestinal toxicity risk following 5-Fluorouracil-based therapy Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Samantha Kaitlyn Korver
    2014 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Characterisation and Treatment of Pan-Human Epidermal Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor-Induced Gastrointestinal Toxicity Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ysabella Van Sebille
    2013 - 2016 Co-Supervisor Toll-Like Receptor 4-Dependent Barrier Dysfunction and its Impact on Irinotecan-Induced Gut Toxicity and Pain Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Hannah Rose Wardill
    2011 - 2016 Co-Supervisor In vitro and in vivo Models to assess the mechanism of Lapatinib - Induced Diarrhoea Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Wan Nor I'zzah Wan Mohamad Zain
    2010 - 2015 Principal Supervisor A Study Linking Toll-like Receptors and Irinotecan-induced Gastrointestinal Mucositis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mrs Khloud Ghazi Fakiha
    2008 - 2012 Co-Supervisor Chemotherapy-Induced Mucositis: The Role of Matrix Metalloproteinases and the Extracellular Matrix Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Noor Al-Dasooqi
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2020 - ongoing Secretary MASCC Executive Board MASCC United States
    2018 - ongoing Board Member Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer MASCC United States
    2014 - 2017 Director Australian Society for Medical Research Australian Society for Medical Research Australia
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2014 - ongoing Member Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer Governance Committee
    2008 - ongoing Member South Australian ASMR committee
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2017 - ongoing Editor Inflammopharmacology Springer Switzerland
    2015 - 2018 Editor Gastroenterology Research and Practice Hindawi Publishing Corporation Egypt
  • Position: Professor
  • Phone: 83131374
  • Email:
  • Fax: 8313 6387
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Helen Mayo South, floor 2
  • Room: S2 32
  • Org Unit: Medical Sciences

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