Spotlight on OzMRS Researcher  Melodie  G 

What is your study background and when did you decide you wanted to be a
research scientist?

I studied functional genetics and cellular pathology, with an emphasis during
my PhD on cancer biology, epigenetics and apoptosis and therapy. I then remained
focussed on cancer biology, while keeping a strong interest on the link between
epigenetics and therapeutic development in cancer.
I knew very clearly I would become a biologist when I was 16 years old, the
first time I have seen the 3D structure of DNA and heard about the laws of
Mendelian genetics. This memory has been imprinted so vividly in me as I found
myself fascinated by the understanding of the natural laws of character transmission.
Thus I went to study genetics and cellular pathology at the university of Lyon
(France). There, I had the privilege to learn from brilliant professors about the love of
science. During my second year I heard for the first time about the interaction gene -
environment and its fascinating implications in nature, biology and disease. From this
lecture, I recognized in which field I wanted to dedicate my career, and that’s what I
did.


What attracted you to cancer research?
Cancer is a major health issue nowadays; most of people will face this
disease themselves or through their relatives during their lifetime and I’m not an
exception. In addition, so many people ultimately die from their cancer – therefore
there is a great opportunity to contribute to something much bigger than myself, with
the hope to ultimately help this substantial part of humanity. In addition, many tools
and techniques were available in this field to explore the dynamics of the epigenome
and its consequences on tumour cell biology.
 
Why do you think research on metastases is important?
Because most of the people who die from cancer die from their metastases,
and in many cases, science is not yet able to meet this incredible need for care and
cure.
 
What do you find exciting about your research work?
My current research work is absolutely fascinating because I have here an
opportunity to use cutting edge technologies and eloquent models to ask questions
scientists could not have addressed before – for technical reasons. Therefore, I can
benefit from these technologies to expand the global understanding of biological
diversity and dynamics within a tumour and make use of this knowledge to help
developing relevant therapies for people.
 
What do you hope to achieve in your research career?
I would consider myself successful as a researcher if I could contribute in
addressing questions of interest for humanity – especially regarding the dynamics
and impact of the environment on gene expression and health. Also I would feel very
happy to transmit this passion to younger people, as I am very grateful for the
inspiring scientist I have met so far.


Lab Spotlight
Tell us about your group

Our group is leaded by professor Frederic Hollande. We focus on
understanding the mechanisms driving both genetic and non-genetic heterogeneity
metastatic colorectal tumour. We also aim characterising signalling pathways that
specify the differential behaviour of cell subpopulations that drive metastatic
progression and treatment response. Translational objectives of our work include the
discovery of novel biomarkers providing early prognosis and prediction of treatment
response, and the improvement of therapeutic efficacy by targeting cells that drive
disease relapse after therapy.


Why metastasis research ?
For various reasons, a particular focus on primary neoplasms has been
observed worldwide in cancer biology. Therefore the effort to improve the global
understanding of metastatic process remains for many cancer types – and still lacks
comprehensive studies.
This context creates a niche where by specializing in a cancer with unmet
need, we can contribute actively to improve patients health while developing an
expertise.


Why Australia ?
Why not Australia? I heard about fascinating cancer research groups located
in Australia during Gordon conferences on Cancer Genetics and Epigenetics in 2013
and 2015. Australia has wonderful scientists and experts in Cancer Epigenetics, with
a strong focus on clinical implications.

What have been your groups greatest discoveries
During my PhD, our group developed an humanized antibody targeting
tumour cells that escaped cell death. I participated in the development and tests of
the various generations of this antibody, which is now undergoing a phase I clinical
trial on patients with cervical late stage tumours. During this period, we unravelled
epigenetic mechanisms associated with drug resistance, and developed combined
therapies based on this observation in pre-clinical models for both breast and non
small cell lung cancers. We published top ranked scientific revues and patents.
More recently, our group has been focussing on tumour heterogeneity and
drug resistance in metastatic CRC, and brilliant members of our group unravelled
fascinating mechanisms associated with disease progression. This work has recently
been submitted to peer review, and will hopefully lead to significant breakthrough for
patient therapy, but remains confidential in the meantime.

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