I am an Clinical Haematologist practising clinical medicine at the Royal Melbourne Hospital / Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and leading translational research at WEHI and the University of Melbourne.
After training in haematology in Brisbane, I did my PhD with Professor Donald Metcalf at WEHI, then a post-doc with Dr David Williams in the USA before returning to WEHI and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
I have been an academic leader in the clinical development of the novel targeted anti-cancer drug, venetoclax, from concept through preclinical development and clinical trials to registration. Currently I serve as Deputy Editor of Blood, the most cited journal in haematology.
My long-term research interests are the development of new treatments for haematological malignancies, focussing especially on those blood cancers that are currently incurable.. My lab collaborates closely with the clinical and laboratory researchers across the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, and with translational research colleagues at WEHI, especially my long term collaborator Professor David Huang.
Major focuses of our research include:
Australia, University of Queensland, MB BS, 1984
Australia, University of Melbourne, PhD, 1997
The Royal Melbourne Hospital
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
University of Melbourne
2020, Ramaciotti Medal for Excellence in Biomedical Research (with Seymour)
2019, Prime Ministers Prize for Innovation (with Huang, Lessene and Czabotar)
2018, Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation for Life Sciences, Victorian State Government (jointly with Seymour)
2018, Clunies Ross Knowledge Commercialisation Award, Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (with Huang, Lessene and Czabotar)
2017, Eric Susman Prize, Royal Australasian College of Physicians
2016, Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research (with Huang, Lessene and Czabotar)
2016, Healthcare Innovation Award – Research, Melbourne Health (with Anderson, Huang, Seymour and Magee)
2015, Thomson Reuters Citation Award – Australia
2013, Metcalf Chair of Leukaemia Research, The University of Melbourne
2004, Burnet Prize, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
2022-2026, NHMRC Synergy Grant 2011139 Understanding and averting blood cancer resistance to therapy (CIA)
2022-2024, MRFF Clinical Trials Activity 2015299 Eliminating HIV that persists on antiretroviral therapy through treatment with the BCL-2 antagonist, venetoclax (CIE)
2021-2025, NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant 2006403 INTERCEPT (Investigating Novel Therapy to target Early Relapse and Clonal Evolution as Pre-emptive Therapy in AML): a multi-arm, precision-based, recursive, platform trial (CIC)
2020-2025, MRFF 1170100 The AIM2 Study: Genomically Guided Novel Combination Treatment of Mantle Cell Lymphoma (CIB)
2020- 2024, National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator Grant 1174902
2020, Australian Cancer Research Foundation (infrastructure grant) ACRF Program for Resolving Cancer
2017-2022, Specialised Centre of Research, Molecular regulation of blood cell production and function Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (USA)
2017-2021, Program Grant 1016647: Molecular regulation of blood cell production and function, National Health and Medical Research Council
Director, Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre Alliance, 2022 –
Member, WHO Expert Committee on the Selection and Use of Essential Medicines, 2021
Deputy Editor, Blood, 2020 –
Chair, Life Saving Drugs Program (LSDP) Expert Panel, 2019 –
Director, Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG), 2010 –
Scientific Program Co-Chair, American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Scientific Meeting, 2015
Chair, Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) Board, 2013-2017 (Member 2004 – 2018)
Member, Australian Government Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC), 2007 – 2018
Roberts AW, Davids MS, Pagel JM, Kahl BS, Puvvada SD, Gerecitano JF, Kipps TJ, Anderson MA, Brown JR, Gressick L, Wong S, Dunbar M, Zhu M, Desai MB, Cerri E, Enschede SH, Humerickhouse RA, Wierda WG, Seymour JF. Targeting BCL2 with Venetoclax in Relapsed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. N Engl J Med 2016; 374(4):311-22. PMID: 26639348
Seymour JF, Ma S, Brander DM, Choi MY, Barrientos J, Davids MS, Anderson MA, Beaven AW, Rosen ST, Tam CS, Prine B, Agarwal SK, Munasinghe W, Zhu M, Lash L, Desai M, Cerri E, Verdugo M, Kim SY, Humerickhouse RA, Gordon GB, Kipps TJ, Roberts AW. Venetoclax plus rituximab in relapsed or refractory chronic lymphocytic leukaemia: a phase 1b study. Lancet Oncol 2017; 18(2):230-240. PMID: 28089635
Tam CS, Anderson MA, Pott C, Agarwal R, Handunnetti S, Hicks RJ, Burbury K, Turner G, Di Iulio JD, Bressel M, Westerman D, Lade S, Dreyling M, Dawson SJ, Dawson MA, Seymour JF, Roberts AW. Ibrutinib plus venetoclax for the treatment of Mantle Cell Lymphoma. N Engl J Med 2018; 378(13):1211-1223. PMID: 29590547
Blombery P, Anderson MA, Gong JN, Thijssen R, Birkinshaw RW, Thompson ER, Teh CE, Nguyen T, Xu Z, Flensburg C, Lew TE, Majewski IJ, Gray DHD, Westerman DA, Tam CS, Seymour JF, Czabotar PE, Huang DCS, Roberts AW. Acquisition of the recurrent Gly101Val mutation in BCL2 confers resistance to venetoclax in patients with progressive chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Cancer Discov 2019; 9(3):342-353. PMID: 30514704
Roberts AW, Wei AH, Huang DCS. BCL2 inhibitors and MCL1 inhibitors for hematological malignancies. Blood 2021;138(13):1120-1136. PMID: 34320168
Thijssen R, Tian L, Anderson MA, Flensburg C, Jarratt A, Garnham AL, Jabbari JS, Peng H, Lew TE, Teh CE, Gouil Q, Georgiou A, Tan T, Djajawi TM, Tam CS, Seymour JF, Blombery P, Gray DHD, Majewski IJ, Ritchie ME*, Roberts AW*, Huang DCS*. Single-cell multiomics reveal the scale of multi-layered adaptations enabling CLL relapse during venetoclax therapy. Blood 2022 Nov 17;140(20):2127-2141. PMID: 35709339
Anderson MA, Deng J, Seymour JF, Tam C, Kim SY, Fein J, Yu L, Brown JR, Westerman D, Si EG, Majewski IJ, Segal D, Heitner Enschede SL, Huang DCS, Davids MS, Letai A, Roberts AW. The BCL2 Selective Inhibitor Venetoclax Induces Rapid Onset Apoptosis of CLL Cells in Patients via a TP53 Independent Mechanism. Blood 2016 Jun;127(25):3215-24 PMID: 27069256
Gong JN, Khong T, Segal D, Yao Y, Riffkin CD, Garnier JM, Khaw SL, Lessene G, Spencer A, Herold MJ, Roberts AW, Huang DC. Hierarchy for targeting pro-survival BCL2 family proteins in multiple myeloma: pivotal role of MCL1. Blood 2016 128(14):1834-1844 PMID: 27465916
Stilgenbauer S, Eichorst B, Schetelig J, Coutre S, Seymour JF, Munir T, Puvvada SD, Wendtner CM, Roberts AW, Jurczak W, Mulligan SP, Bottcher S, Mobasher M, Zhu M, Desai M, Chyla B, Verdugo M, Heitner Enschede S, Cerri E, Humerickhouse R, Gordon G, Hallek M, Wierda WG. Venetoclax in Relapsed/Refractory Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia with 17p Deletion: a Pivotal Phase 2, Open Label, Multicenter Study. Lancet Oncol 2016; 17(6):768-78. PMID: 27178240
Davids MS, Roberts AW, Seymour JF, Pagel JM, Kahl BS, Wierda WG, Puvvada S, Kipps TJ, Anderson MA, Salem AH, Dunbar M, Zhu M, Peale F, Ross JA, Gressick L, Desai M, Kim SY, Verdugo M, Humerickhouse RA, Gordon GB, Gerecitano JF. Phase I First-in-Human Study of Venetoclax in Patients With Relapsed or Refractory Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. J Clin Oncol 2017; 35(8):826-833. PMID: 28095146
Kotschy A, Szlavik Z, Murray J, Davidson J, Maragno AL, Le Toumelin-Braizat G, Chanrion M, Kelly GL, Gong JN, Moujalled DM, Bruno A, Csekei M, Paczal A, Szabo ZB, Sipos S, Radics G, Proszenyak A, Balint B, Ondi L, Blasko G, Robertson A, Surgenor A, Dokurno P, Chen I, Matassova N, Smith J, Pedder C, Graham C, Studeny A, Lysiak-Auvity G, Girard AM, Gravé F, Segal D, Riffkin CD, Pomilio G, Galbraith LC, Aubrey BJ, Brennan MS, Herold MJ, Chang C, Guasconi G, Cauquil N, Melchiore F, Guigal-Stephan N, Lockhart B, Colland F, Hickman JA, Roberts AW, Huang DC, Wei AH, Strasser A, Lessene G, Geneste O. The MCL1 inhibitor S63845 is tolerable and effective in diverse cancer models. Nature 2016; 538(7626):477-482. PMID: 27760111
Souers AJ, Leverson JD, Boghaert ER, Ackler SL, Catron ND, Chen J, Dayton BD, Ding H, Enschede SH, Fairbrother WJ, Huang DCS, Hymowitz SG, Jin S, Khaw SL, Kovar PJ, Lam LT, Lee J, Maecker HL, Marsh KC, Mason KD, Mitten MJ, Nimmer PM, Oleksijew A, Park CH, Park CM, Phillips DC, Roberts AW, Sampath D, Seymour JF, Smith ML, Sullivan GM, Tahir SK, Tse C, Wendt MD, Xiao Y, Xue JC, Zhang HC, Humerickhouse RA, Rosenberg SH, Elmore SW. ABT-199, a potent and selective BCL-2 inhibitor, achieves antitumor activity while sparing platelets. Nature Medicine. 2013 Feb;19(2):202-8. PMID: 23291630.
Roberts AW, Seymour JF, Brown JR, Wierda WG, Kipps TJ, Khaw SL, Carney DA, He SZ, Huang DCS, 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. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2012 Feb;30(5):488-96. PMID: 22184378.
Mason KD, Carpinelli MR, Fletcher JI, Collinge JE, Hilton AA, Ellis S, Kelly PN, Ekert PG, Metcalf D, Roberts AW, Huang DC, Kile BT. Programmed anuclear cell death delimits platelet life span. Cell. 2007 Mar 23;128(6):1173-86. PMID: 17382885.
van Delft MF, Wei AH, Mason KD, Vandenberg CJ, Chen L, Czabotar PE, Willis SN, Scott CL, Day CL, Cory S, Adams JM, Roberts AW, Huang DC. 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. PMID: 17097561.
A series of clinical trials and translational research projects that are developing venetoclax and other BH3 mimetics as therapy for leukaemias, lymphoma and myeloma.
Definition of how cell lines, primary cells and samples from patients on clinical trials manifest innate and acquired resistance to BH3 mimetics.
Identification of key BCL2 family proteins in myeloma, and how to target them for therapy.
In collaboration with colleagues at WEHI, particularly Professors Andrew Wei and David Huang, and partner hospitals, we study serial samples from patients on standard and experimental therapies. Using the latest single cell-omics, we characterise the basis for resistance and design new strategies to circumvent this.