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About the lab

Lung cancer is a devastating disease causing 1.8 million deaths worldwide every year. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that increases the elimination of tumour cells by an individual’s own immune cells. Immunotherapy has dramatically improved the survival of many lung cancer patients. However, only a small proportion of patients respond to this type of therapy.

To identify new ways to improve response to immunotherapy, we need a comprehensive understanding of the communication between tumour and immune cells. The Asselin-Labat laboratory uses novel approaches that integrate spatial information with molecular characterisation and genomic screening to achieve this goal.

Our research focuses on studying the lung epithelium and the role of surrounding immune cells in maintaining lung health and controlling lung cancer formation. We work with preclinical models as well as clinical samples to assess the role of immune cells in maintaining lung homeostasis. We investigate mechanisms developed by tumour cells to escape immune surveillance. Our aim is to identify ways to reactivate immune activity against cancer cells with the ultimate goal to improve outcomes for people with lung cancer.

3D OPT imaging showing Keratin 5 expression in Ezh2 cKO embryonic lung

Our mission

Our laboratory mission is to build a world where every lung cancer patient receives effective therapy. Our research vision is to empower the immune system to better recognise and target cancer cells by integrating the molecular traits and spatial features of tumour cells and their microenvironment, to ultimately deliver personalised, effective treatments that improve patient outcomes.

Impact

Recent discovery: We uncovered a new role for lung tissue resident memory T cells in accelerating immune evasion mechanisms in tumour cells, through deep exploration of human datasets and in vivo animal studies. These findings identify that the ‘soil’ in which tumours are grown has lasting effects on tumour immunogenicity and therapy response, providing novel insight in mechanisms of immune evasion. Weeden et al., Cancer Cell 2023

Technics: Our apoproaches integrate molecular cell characteristics, genetic editing and spatial cell organisation using algorithms based on artificial intelligence to determine the state in which a cell resides and how cells transit between different states under the influence of surrounding cells. We exploit spatial proteomic (MIBIscope), spatial transcriptomics, CyTOF, proteomics, genomics, CRISPR/Cas9 editing to uncover mechanisms regulating tumour evolution.

Lab research projects

Lab team

My research group has established collaborations with Professor Daniel Gray, Associate Professor Kate Sutherland and Professor Marnie Blewitt.

Enquiries from prospective Honours or PhD students, including clinicians interested in research, are welcome.

6 members
Marina Leiwe
PhD Student
Eddy Yao
PhD Student
Dr Adithya Balasubramanian
PhD Student
Alejandro Torres
Research Officer
Research Assistant
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