Minimising rheumatic adverse events of checkpoint inhibitor cancer therapy

Minimising rheumatic adverse events of checkpoint inhibitor cancer therapy

Project details

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system is chronically overactive and attacks healthy cells. We are researching the immunological basis of autoimmune disorders and extend such knowledge towards novel therapeutic applications.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are a revolutionary cancer immunotherapy that boosts patient’s own immune responses against tumours. Unfortunately, cancer patients can develop treatment-related side-effects that resemble chronic autoimmune rheumatic diseases. This can be clinically challenging as conventional anti-rheumatic drugs are often immunosuppressive and may reduce the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.  

The aim of this project is to identify new strategies that can mitigate rheumatic adverse events without compromising the anti-tumour benefit of cancer immunotherapy. Using preclinical models of autoimmune diseases and cancers, student will learn genetic and pharmacologic experiments to assess relevant immune parameters that are involved in both autoimmunity and anti-tumour responses.


About our research group

We are researching the cellular and cytokine pathways of autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis and spondyloarthritis), lupus, and myositis. Ultimately, we hope to unveil critical information that will enable the development of new diagnostic tools and therapies towards personalised medicine.

We collaborate extensively with the Rheumatology Unit at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and other laboratories at WEHI. Our projects incorporate several research strategies including preclinical disease models, clinical samples, ‘omics’ technologies (genomics and proteomics) and proof-of-concept (genetic and pharmacologic) experiments. Our broad aim is to gain a better understanding of the molecular events that drive disease progression and tissue pathology. Some of these works have resulted in high-impact publications (Louis J Exp Med 2020 217(5):e20191421) and collaborations with the biotechnology sector that further led to the development of antibody-based and small molecule inhibitor therapies.



Email supervisors



Dr Cynthia Louis profile
Inflammation division

Professor Ian Wicks

Ian Wicks
Joint Division Head, Laboratory Head

Project Type: