Cutting off the fuel supply to starve cancer: identifying the nutrient dependencies of cancer cells

Project Details

In order to meet the metabolic demands associated with rapid proliferation, cancer cells must be able to acquire relevant nutrients from the surrounding tumour microenvironment and effectively utilise these nutrients. Nutrient availability has a dramatic effect on gene essentiality and the essentiality of specific metabolic pathways. Until recently, little attention has been paid to the fact that traditional cell culture media does not mimic the in vivo metabolic environment. We have therefore adopted the use of a physiologically relevant culture media that can be manipulated in order to investigate the impact of nutrient availability on cell survival, cell proliferation, therapy resistance, metastasis and immune escape. Coupled with genetic approaches to perturb metabolic pathway activity, we seek to identify the nutrient dependencies of cancer cells with a view to developing novel strategies for cancer therapy.


Stefan Bjelosevic, Post-doctoral fellow
Rebecca Dawson, Post-doctoral fellow
Sri Vaidyanathan, PhD student
Athena Ong, PhD student
Keziah Ting, PhD student
Olivia Lee, Honours student
Riley Goldsworthy, Honours student
Rasan Sathiqu, Research assistant
Tara Tigani, Research assistant

Research Opportunities

This research project is available to PhD students to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.

Research Publications

  1. Brown KK*, Spinelli JB, Asara JM, Toker A*. Adaptive reprogramming of de novo pyrimidine synthesis is a metabolic vulnerability in triple-negative breast cancer. Cancer Discovery 2017; 7(4):391-9. *Corresponding authors
  2. Bjelosevic S, Gruber E, Newbold A, Shembrey C, Devlin JR, Hogg SJ, Kats LM, Todorovski I, Fan Z, Abrehart TC, Pomilio G, Wei AH, Gregory GP, Vervoort SJ, Brown KK*, Johnstone RW*. Serine biosynthesis is a metabolic vulnerability in FLT3-ITD-driven acute myeloid leukaemia. Cancer Discovery 2021; DOI: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-0738. *Corresponding authors
  3. Cox AG, Hwang KL, Brown KK, Evason KJ, Beltz S, Tsomides A, O'Connor K, Galli GG, Yimlamai D, Chhangawala S, Yuan M, Lien EC, Wucherpfennig J, Nissim S, Minami A, Cohen DE, Camargo FD, Asara JM, Houvras Y, Stainier DY, Goessling W. Yap reprograms glutamine metabolism to increase nucleotide biosynthesis and enable liver growth. Nature Cell Biology 2016; 18(8):886-96

Research Group

Kristin Brown laboratory

Faculty Research Themes


School Research Themes

Cancer in Biomedicine, Cell Signalling, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Biochemistry and Pharmacology

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