Professor Andrew Roberts


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Division: Cancer & Haematology

Research Overview

Professor Andrew Roberts is head of Clinical Translation and a laboratory head in the Cancer and Hamatology division. He also works part-time as a clinical haematologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

A graduate of University of Queensland, he trained in clinical haematology for three years at Royal Brisbane Hospital and one year at Royal Melbourne Hospital before undertaking PhD studies with Don Metcalf 1993-1996. There he soon learned how little he really understood about haematology. After a post-doc in the Howard Hughes funded laboratory of David Williams, he returned to Melbourne to establish his own laboratory and translational research program. Current major research interests are the molecular regulation of haemopoiesis and the development of new treatments for lymphoma and leukaemia through translational and clinical research. He serves on the boards of the Cancer Council of Victoria, and the Australasian Leukaemia & Lymphoma Group (the national clinical trials group for blood cancer), as well as the Australian Governments’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. He was President of Haematology Society of Australia and New Zealand 2005–07.

Professor Roberts' Cancer and Haematology Laboratory has close collaborative and physical ties with the Departments of Clinical Haematology and BMT, and Medical Oncology at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he conducts his clinical practice and clinical trial research. He also works closely in translational research with colleagues in the Chemical Biology division, particularly Professor David Huang. A team approach to facilitate internationally competitive research is fostered and each project is conducted in collaboration with other scientists and/or clinicians.

Research Interests

  • Modulation of apoptosis for therapeutic gain – translational and clinical studies with a new class of drugs – the BH3 mimetics.
  • Functional studies of SOCS protein interactions in the regulation of cytokine signaling – ongoing collaboration with Warren Alexander and colleagues to define the regulation of cytokine signaling in blood cells.
  • Marrying the use of targeted therapies and molecular phenotypes to improve therapy for blood cancers.

Selected Publications

  1. Croker BA, Krebs DL, Zhang J-G, Wormald S, Willson TA, Stanley EG, Robb L, Greenhalgh CJ, Förster I, Clausen BE, Nicola NA, Metcalf D, Roberts AW, Alexander WS. SOCS3 negatively regulates IL-6 signaling in vivo. Nature Immunology 2003 Jun;4(6):540-5. PMID: 12754505
  2. Croker BA, Metcalf D, Robb L, Wei W, Mifsud S, DiRago L, Cluse LA, Sutherland KD, Hartley L, Williams E, Zhang J-G, Hilton DJ, Nicola NA, Alexander WS, Roberts AW. SOCS3 is a critical physiological negative regulator of G-CSF signaling and emergency granulopoiesis. Immunity 2004 Feb;20(2):153-65. PMID: 14975238
  3. Lawlor KE, Campbell IK, Metcalf D, O’Donnell K, van Nieuwenhuijze A, Roberts AW, Wicks IP. Critical role for granulocyte colony-stimulating factor in inflammatory arthritis. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2004 Aug 3;101(31):11398-403. PMID: 15272075
  4. Kuroda J, Puthalakath H, Cragg MS, Kelly PN, Bouillet P, Huang DCS, Kimura S, Ottmann OG, Druker BJ, Villunger A, Roberts AW, Strasser A. Pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins Bim and Bad mediate imatinib-induce killing of Bcr/Abl+ leukemic cells and resistance due to their loss is overcome by a BH3 mimetic. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2006 Oct 3;103(40):14907-12. PMID: 16997913
  5. van Delft MF, Wei AH, Mason KD, Vandenberg CJ, Chen L, Czabotar PE, Willis SN, Scott CL, Day CL, Cory S, Adams JA*, Roberts AW*, Huang DCS*. The BH3 mimetic ABT-737 targets selective Bcl-2 proteins and efficiently induces apoptosis via Bak/Bax if Mcl-1 is neutralized. Cancer Cell 2006 Nov;10(5):389-99. (* joint senior authors) PMID: 17097561
  6. Mason KD, Carpinelli MR, Fletcher JI, Collinge JE, Hilton AA, Ellis S, Kelly PN, Ekert PG, Metcalf D, Roberts AW, Huang DCS, Kile BT. Programmed anuclear cell death delimits platelet life span. Cell 2007 Mar 23;128(6):1173-86. PMID: 17382885
  7. Mason KD, Vanderberg C, Scott C, Wei A, Cory S*, Huang DCS* and Roberts AW*. In vivo efficacy of the Bcl-2 antagonist ABT-737 against aggressive Myc-driven lymphomas. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2008 Nov 18;105(46):17961-6. *Joint senior authors PMID: 19004807
  8. Mason KD, Khaw SL, Rayeroux KC, Chew E, Lee EF, Fairlie WD, Grigg AP, Seymour JF, Szer J, Huang DC, Roberts AW. The BH3 mimetic compound, ABT-737, synergizes with a range of cytotoxic chemotherapy agents in chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Leukemia. 2009 Nov;23(11):2034-41. PMID: 19641525
  9. Croker BA, O'Donnell JA, Nowell CJ, Metcalf D, Dewson G, Campbell KJ, Rogers KL, Hu Y, Smyth GK, Zhang JG, White M, Lackovic K, Cengia LH, O'Reilly LA, Bouillet P, Cory S, Strasser A, Roberts AW. Fas-mediated neutrophil apoptosis is accelerated by Bid, Bak, and Bax and inhibited by Bcl-2 and Mcl-1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Aug 9;108(32):13135-40. PMID: 21768356
  10. Roberts AW, Seymour JF, Brown JR, Wierda WG, Kipps TJ, Khaw SL, Carney DA, He SZ, Huang DC, Xiong H, Cui Y, Busman TA, McKeegan EM, Krivoshik AP, Enschede SH, Humerickhouse R. Substantial susceptibility of chronic lymphocytic leukemia to BCL2 inhibition: results of a phase I study of navitoclax in patients with relapsed or refractory disease. J Clin Oncol. 2012 Feb 10;30(5):488-96. PMID: 22184378

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Current Laboratory Members

Cancer & Haematology Division

Laboratory Head: Andrew Roberts MB BS Qld PhD Melb FRCPA FRACP

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow: Kylie Mason MB BSMelb PhD Melb FRACP FRCPA

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow: Seong Khaw MB BS(Hons) Adel PhD Melb

Senior Postdoctoral Fellow: David Segal BSc(Hons) UWA PhD ANU

Postdoctoral Fellow: Zhen Xu BSc Nanjing PhD Nanjing

Research Assistant: Louise Cengia BSc UTAS

Research Assistant: Angela Georgiou

Postgraduate Student: Mary Ann Anderson MB BS Melb

Postgraduate Student: Sophie Lee MB ChB Auckland

Visiting Tissue Coordinator: Naomi Sprigg

Visiting MD Student: Simon He MB BS Melb

Clinical Translation Centre

Head: Andrew Roberts MB BS Qld PhD Melb FRCPA FRACP

Clinical Project Officer: Jenni Harris BSc(Nursing)

Clinical Project Officer: Lina Laskos BSc(Hons) Mon PhD Mon

Research Assistant: Cathy Quilici

Visiting Tissue Coordinator: Naomi Sprigg