Prof Neil Watkins

Rare Cancers

 New South Wales

Stephen joined the research group led by Professor Ian Frazer at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in 2007 to undertake postdoctoral research, investigating immune regulation in animal models of cervical cancer.

In 2010, he furthered his training in the field of cancer immunotherapy by secondment to the laboratory of Professor Mark Smyth at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. There, he and his group developed a novel therapeutic cancer vaccine for B cell lymphomas, and through collaboration with international colleagues in France, made significant inroads into understanding how the immune system is required for effective chemotherapy treatment outcomes in cancer patients.

Returning to UQDI in May 2012, Stephen established his own group whose vision and goal is to develop and promote blood cancer immunotherapies at the Translational Research Institute and UQ.

Immune Based Therapies

Stephen’s group focuses on developing and assessing combination immune-based therapies in mouse models of cancer, and investigating how tumours escape control by the immune system. They are also interested in how external ‘modifiable’ factors - such as chronic stress - impact on the immune system and on immunotherapy.

“Our vision is to try and incorporate immune-based therapies with conventional therapies for cancer,” says Stephen. “Current therapies are very toxic and don’t always work that well, particularly in patients who have resistant tumours or have relapsed to disease. By combining immune-based therapies with conventional treatments, we hope to boost the overall effect and create more durable responses to different types of cancer.”