Quinn laboratory: Developmental cancer models

Research Overview

Dr Quinn's current NHMRC and CCV funded research involves generating animal models to understand the initiation and progression of human cancer. Her core research focus is to develop in vivo cancer models towards unraveling how complex signalling mechanisms are integrated into transcriptional networks.

In particular the group studies how these networks coordinate cell growth and division to establish the body plan during development, and also maintain tissue homeostasis in adult animals; as cell growth and proliferation are invariably dysregulated in human cancer. Her group has a strong interest in using in vivo stem cell models to determine the mechanism(s) by which the stem cell microenvironment or "niche" regulates stem and progenitor cell growth, division and differentiation.

One core regulator of growth and division of great interest to the Quinn laboratory is the MYC oncogene, which is a potent activator of cell growth networks and upregulated in 70% of all human cancers. As most MYC-driven cancer is due to upregulation of expression a major focus is unraveling the networks controlling MYC transcription, both in normal development and in malignancy.


Dr Linda Parsons, Postdoctoral Research Fellow 
Dr Amanda Lee, Postdoctoral Research Fellow 
Naomi Mitchell, Research Assistant
Mai Tran, Research Assistant 
Arjun Chahal, PhD student
Nic Lim, PhD student 
Olga Zaytseva, PhD student
Linna Guo, PhD student 
Thomas Ware, PhD student


Professor Ross Hannan, Head of the Department of Cancer Biology & Therapeutics and the Centenary Chair in Cancer Research, Australian National Univeristy
Professor David Levens, Chief Gene Regulation Section, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Professor Richard Pearson, NHMRC SRF, Head NHMRC Cell Growth Program, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Associate Professor Gary Hime, Senior Lecturer, Anatomy and Neuroscience, The University of Melbourne
Professor Joan Heath, NHMRC SRF, Head Developmental Cancer Models Group, WEHI
Dr Dominic Ng, ARC Future Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Queensland
Dr Theo Mantamadiotis, Senior Lecturer, Department of Pathology, The University of Melbourne
Dr Rodney Luwor, Glioma Group, Royal Melbourne Hospital


CASS Foundation 'Models for tumour growth in Drosophila'
Cancer Council Victoria 'Investigating roles for the FUBP family of Myc-regulators and their novel transcriptional targets in coordinating animal growth in vivo'
CASS Foundation 'Identifying genes required for tumour growth in Drosophila'
ARC Discovery Grant 'Deciphering the cellular defenses against aggregating proteins in human disease'
NHMRC project grant 'Drosophila models for regulation of Myc transcription'
NHMRC project grant 'The Drosophila homologue of the c-Myc oncoprotein; regulation and roles in controlling stem cell behaviour in the germline'
NHMRC RD Wright Fellowship/Career Development Award

Research Publications

  • Naomi Mitchell, Elissaveta Tchoubrieva, Arjun Chahal, Simone Woods, Amanda Lee, Jane Lin, Linda Parsons, Gretchen Poortinga, Katherine Hannan, Richard Pearson, Ross Hannan and Leonie Quinn.
    Signalling to ribosomal RNA synthesis: MYC-driven rDNA transcription requires S6 Kinase. Cellular Signalling 2015 doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2015.07.018.
  • Jue Er Amanda Lee, Naomi Mitchell, Olga Zaytseva, Arjun Chahal, Peter Mendis, Linda Parsons, Gretchen Poortinga, David Levens, Ross Hannan, and Leonie Quinn. 
    Hfp-dependent transcriptional repression of dMYC is fundamental to tissue overgrowth in Drosophila XPB models. Nature Communications 2015; doi:10.1038/ncomms8404.  [IF=10.742]
  • Olga Zaytseva, Nora Tenis, Naomi Mitchell, Shin-ichiro Kanno, Akira Yasui, Jörg Heierhorst and Leonie Quinn.
    ASCIZ regulates development and mitosis in Drosophila as a conserved regulator of Cutup/dynein light chain. Genetics 2014; 196 (2): 443–53. doi:10.1534/genetics.113.159541.
  • Poortinga, G., L. M. Quinn, and R. D. Hannan. 2014.
    Targeting RNA Polymerase I to Treat MYC-Driven Cancer. Oncogene 2014; (10) 1038/onc.2014.13.
  • Jane Lin, Naomi Mitchell, Elly Tchoubrieva, Mary Stewart, Steven Marygold, Richard Pearson, Leonie Quinn and Ross Hannan.  
    Drosophila Ribosomal Protein Mutants Control Tissue Growth Non-Autonomously via Effects on the Prothoracic Gland and Ecdysone. PloS Genetics 2011; 7 (12) e1002408
  • Naomi Mitchell, Timothy Johanson, Nicola Cranna, Amanda Lee, Helena Richardson, Ross Hannan and Leonie Quinn.
    Hfp inhibits Drosophila myc transcription and cell growth in a TFIIH/Hay-dependent manner.
    Development 2010; 137, 2875-2884.
  • Georg Mayer, Chiharu Kato, Björn Quast, Rebecca Chisholm, Kerry Landman and Leonie Quinn.
    Growth patterns in Onychophora: lack of a localised posterior proliferation zone. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010; 10:339.
  • Adrian Monk, Nicole Siddall, Talila Volk, Barbara Fraser, Leonie Quinn, Eileen McLaughlin and Gary Hime.
    How is required for stem cell maintenance in the Drosophila testis and for the onset of transit amplifying divisions. Cell Stem Cell 2010; 6(4): 348-60.
  • Naomi Mitchell, Nicola Cranna, Helena Richardson and Leonie Quinn.
    The Ecdysone- inducible zinc finger transcription factor, Crol regulates wg transcription and cell cycle progression in Drosophila. Development 2008; (featured on the front cover). 135(16): 2707-16.

Research Projects

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cancer, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease, Stem Cells

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Dr Leonie Quinn

Department / Centre

Anatomy and Neuroscience