Lisa Ebert

Lisa Ebert

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences


Dr Lisa Ebert is an Affiliate Senior Lecturer of the University of Adelaide (Adelaide Medical School) and a Senior Research Fellow in the Translational Oncology Laboratory at the Centre for Cancer Biology. The Translational Oncology Laboratory has a clear focus on the development of new and better therapies for cancer, and the translation of these research discoveries to the clinic. The head of the group, Professor Michael Brown, is a medical oncologist and Director of the Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Thus, we are perfectly positioned to study human cancer and to adopt a ‘bench to bedside’ approach for the testing of new therapeutic strategies in the clinic.

The Translational Oncology group has two major research streams: one focussed on T cell-based cancer immunotherapies, and the other on antibody-targeted diagnostics and therapeutics.

Dr Ebert directs a research program within the T Cell Immunotherapies stream. Our team has a major interest in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapies, where our studies range from the identification of new target antigens, to the design, manufacturing and testing of novel CAR-T cell therapies, and all the way to clinical trials. Our other major interest is in Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor therapies. We use patient blood and tissue specimens to better understand the mechanism of action of these novel agents, with the hope of improving the number of patients that can benefit, and to predict upfront the those patients who will respond best to treatment. 

Student projects are available in our group for Honours, Masters and PhD. Some examples are listed below:

Improving the tissue-homing capacity of CAR-T cells
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy has revolutionised the treatment of B cell leukaemia and lymphoma, and has spurred intense interest in extending these successes to the treatment of solid tumours such as glioblastoma, melanoma and sarcoma. In clinical trials at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and in pre-clinical studies using advanced mouse models, we are testing CAR-T cells for their ability to shrink these tumours. We are also particularly interested to understand how effectively these T cells can pass from the blood circulation into tumour tissues, which is where they are required to mediate their cancer cell-killing function. Projects are available to address these questions using in vitro functional assays, animal models and analysis of patient blood and tissue samples. These studies are expected to improve our understanding of anti-tumour immunity and ultimately to enhance the efficacy of our clinical CAR-T cell therapies.

Understanding and predicting individual patient responses to Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor (ICI) therapy
ICI therapy is a radical therapeutic approach that is now approved in Australia for the treatment of several cancer types, including melanoma, lung and kidney. These new medicines can re-activate dormant anti-tumour immune responses, leading to dramatic tumour shrinkage, and possibly cure, in a fraction of patients. However, most patients receive little to no benefit, yet are still exposed to the risk of severe side effects. Using pre-treatment blood samples from melanoma patients, we have discovered a way to predict which of these patients will experience significant tumour shrinkage following ICI therapy. Projects are available to further develop this finding, including: (i) using this knowledge to better understand the mechanism of action for ICI therapy; (ii) testing whether this approach also works for patients with other types of cancer; and (iii) translating this discovery into a clinically useful blood test that could be used to ensure that each patient receives the most effective treatment for them.

Location: Centre for Cancer Biology (UniSA Cancer Research Institute/Bradley Building – adjacent to AHMS building on North Tce)

Research project start: Semester 1 or Semester 2

Special requirements: Some vaccinations may be required if handling human specimens

 

Current funding sources include Cancer Australia, the Neurosurgical Research Foundation, Tour de Cure and the Royal Adelaide Hospital Research Fund.

 


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