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Michael Papanicolaou

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


I completed a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Science as an undergraduate degree, however, it wasn’t until my honour’s thesis year with Prof. Brian Oliver that I gained a true appreciation for research. My honours thesis focused on crosstalk between fibroblasts, epithelia, and neutrophils in the respiratory disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We managed to uncover a method of cross-talk between these cells, and after this, I was hooked by discovery!



What attracted you to cancer research?


During my honours year I realised that a lot of foundation for what I was studying in my thesis had been established by the cancer field. A little digging revealed that the cancer field had already made a lot of progress on big and analogous questions in the COPD field, so I decided to make the switch for my Ph.D.



Why do you think research on metastases is important?


As we know in solid cancers, metastasis is the primary cause for cancer-related deaths. So, from a clinical perspective, metastasis is one of the key processes which can have a major positive impact for patients. And from a biological perspective, it’s very complex and equally as fascinating.



What do you find exciting about your research work?


My work has focused on cancer-associated fibroblasts in breast cancer, and specifically how they mediate cross-talk with tumour epithelial cells through the extracellular matrix. The ECM has many implications in tumour biology, including in tumourigenesis, therapy resistance, and metastasis, and intersects with other stromal compartments including the immune system. The open-ended possibility in the project has made it a very exciting journey.



What do you hope to achieve in your research career?


To contribute in any way possible to lives of cancer patients and the field!

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