Sarah-Jane Dawson lab

In the Sarah-Jane Dawson lab and the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Program, researchers aim to develop improved molecular biomarkers for early detection, risk stratification and disease monitoring in cancer

Cancers evolve during disease progression and under the selective pressure of therapy. Our ability to continually monitor cancer is critical to guide optimal therapeutic choices. Many cancers shed small amounts of DNA (called circulating tumour DNA or ctDNA) into the patient's bloodstream. It is now possible to accurately characterise the features of ctDNA, providing a comprehensive snapshot of the genomic landscape of the underlying tumour from a simple blood test. The measurement of ctDNA levels, and our ability to monitor how these levels change over time, can be used as a marker of disease progression or response to therapy. The Sarah-Jane Dawson laboratory is focused on developing ctDNA as a minimally invasive ‘liquid biopsy’ alternative to tissue biopsies for use in cancer diagnostics and management. 
Whilst circulating biomarkers hold great promise in cancer management, substantial effort is still required to understand their clinical application in various contexts. Our research program employs ctDNA based approaches to define tumour response kinetics and the mutational landscape at multiple time-points during a patient’s treatment, thus providing a powerful tool to define, understand and eventually overcome the molecular events that underpin resistance to current and emerging therapies. Moreover, our program focuses on establishing the clinical utility of ctDNA testing through appropriately designed translational research studies and prospective clinical trials, to facilitate the routine implementation of these approaches into clinical practice. 

Current projects

  • Circulating tumour DNA to serially assess in vivo transcriptional evolution in cancers - Dineika Chandrananda 
  • Genomic and epigenomic monitoring of residual disease in breast cancer using liquid biopsies - Dineika Chandrananda 
  • Monitoring disease trajectories following novel therapies in breast cancer using circulating tumour DNA - Joshua Harris 
  • Tissue and blood-based markers to define immune-based therapy response in diffuse large B cell Lymphoma -Clare Gould 
  • Early Detection and monitoring of hepatocellular carcinoma using liquid biopsies - Lauren Andersson 
  • Novel predictive disease modelling using liquid biopsies to improve outcomes in melanoma - Ann Onuselogu

Lab members

Sarah Ftouni - Laboratory Manager; Dineika Chandrananda - Bioinformatician, Senior Research Officer; Clare Gould - Haematologist, Postdoctoral Fellow; Joshua Harris - Postdoctoral Fellow; Júlia Matas Gironella - Postdoctoral Fellow; Jerick Guinto - Research Assistant; Jenna Stewart - Research Assistant; Rebekah Halfhide-Simpson - Research Assistant; Tarek Elsabeh - Research Assistant; Uma Anwardekar - Bioinformatician; Maxwell Bladen - Bioinformatician; Lauren Andersson - Gastroenterologist, PhD student; Ann Onuselogu - PhD student

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