Focal Adhesion Biology

The invasion of cancer cells from the primary tumour to secondary sites in the body (metastasis) is the overwhelming cause of death from cancer. However we still do not have a clear understanding of how metastasis occurs, and so we have few therapies that are able to target it effectively.

The aim of the Focal Adhesion Biology group is to understand the molecular events that occur in invasion. We are working to understand the fundamental regulation of cell migration, a process that underpins the development of invasive, disseminated cancer. The definition of the core events that cause the spread of cancer cells is a key step to designing future therapies that directly target invasive cancer.

The team's research focuses on how cancer cells coordinate their actin cytoskeleton with adhesion to the extra-cellular matrix during dissemination and invasion. We use 3D cell culture models and microscopy-based cell biology approaches to investigate the fundamental cellular machinery involved in migration and invasion. We are using these techniques to investigate some of the most deadly forms of brain cancer.

The research team

> A/Professor Geraldine O’Neill, Focal Adhesion Biology Group Leader, email:

The central theme of Geraldine's research is to understand how cancer cell interaction with the surrounding environment regulates invasion, as progression to invasive cancer is one of the major causes of cancer mortality. Her particular focus is on brain tumours. Her research aims to understand the fundamentals of how cancer cells move and how they respond to their environment. More information can be found on Geraldine's University of Sydney profile page

> Other Research Team Members:

  • Thomas Grundy, PhD student
  • Thuvarahan Jegathees, Masters student
  • Victoria Prior, PhD student
  • Amy Sarker, PhD student

Key publications

Cyclin-dependent kinase 7 is a therapeutic target in high-grade glioma.  Greenall, S., Lim, Y., Mitchell, C., Ensbey, K., Stringer, B., Wilding, A., O'Neill, G., McDonald, K., Gough, D., Day, B., et al Oncogenesis 2017 6(5), 1-13.

A full list of publications can be found here