Dr Simone Park recognised for cancer immunotherapy research

The postdoctoral researcher receives the Premier's Award for Health and Medical Research.

Dr Simone Park is improving cancer immunotherapies.

Based in Professor Laura Mackay’s laboratory in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Biomedical Sciences at the Peter Doherty Institute, she is looking at the development and function of tissue-resident memory T cells in cancer, infection and autoimmunity.

One of only twelve finalists for the 2020 Premier’s Awards, the emerging early career researcher has been recognised for her exceptional capability and contribution of her research project. Simone won the Basic Science category, and an additional $15,000 as the overall Premier’s Excellence Award winner.

The project explores how Tissue-resident memory (TRM) T cells prevent cancer progression and inhibit viral infection. This information can be harnessed to advance disease treatment.

Using a novel melanoma model that allows tumour cells to be transferred to the superficial layers of mouse skin, Simone showed, for the first time, that TRM cells are critical to protect against cancer development and can inhibit the growth of tumours without completely removing them from the body. She also discovered that skin TRM cells can protect against viral skin infections and multiply after reactivation which allows them to be maintained in the tissue over time.

Earlier this year Simone was awarded a prestigious University of Melbourne Chancellor's Prize for 2020, for her research 'The role of CD8+ tissue-resident memory T cells in melanoma immune surveillance.'

Our team has discovered that tissue-resident memory T cells are amazing at protecting us against viral infections and cancer – in particular melanoma, for which Australia has one of the highest diagnosis rates in the world. By uncovering how these cells work, we are finding novel ways to create better disease therapies that might one day be used to offer protection or treatment against a wide range of infectious diseases, such as respiratory illnesses, malaria and cancer,” says Dr Park.

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