Molecular Oncology

Our team investigates what happens in cancer at a molecular level, this being at the level of how genes, proteins and other molecules work in the cell. We are studying how inherited genetic changes contribute to cancers in children and families, and how genetic changes in cancers can predict how patients respond to therapy. We also study the functions of particular proteins in cancer cells, in order to target altered lipid (or fat) metabolism to improve cancer treatment.

Much of our research employs patient samples from The Children’s Hospital at Westmead Tumour Bank, and so our team recognises the vital importance of tumour banks (or biobanks) in facilitating cancer research. We are supporting the development and broader application of NSW Health Pathology biobank certification to improve patient sample quality for cancer research.

Current research interests include:

  • regulation of lipid metabolism and lipid storage in cancer cells,
  • identification of cancer predisposition genes and predictive biomarkers in childhood cancer patients,
  • improvement of cancer biobank operations,
  • semi-automated analysis of verifiable experimental reagents in cancer research publications

The research team

Professor Jennifer Byrne, Molecular Oncology Group Leader, email:

Jennifer Byrne has spent her scientific career analyzing childhood and adult cancers at a molecular level. Her PhD studies mapped loss of chromosome 11p15 loci in embryonal tumours, and she then identified a novel human gene family during postdoctoral studies in France. Professor Byrne is Head of the Children’s Cancer Research Unit at Kids Research, and Professor of Molecular Oncology within the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Sydney.

More information can be found by visiting Jennifer's University of Sydney profile page


> Other Research Team Members

  • Dr Rose Boutros, Senior Research Officer
  • Dr Yuyan Chen, Senior Research Officer
  • Ms Bharvi Maneck, Project Officer
  • Dr Federica Saletta, Senior Research Officer
  • Mr Punkaja Maninda S Amarasekera, PhD student
  • Ms Amanda Rush, PhD Student
  • Ms Dianne Sylvester, PhD Student
  • Ms Rachel West, Research assistant

Key publications

The possibility of systematic research fraud targeting under-studied human genes: causes, consequences and potential solutions. Byrne JA, Grima N, Capes-Davis A, Labbé C (2019). Biomarker Insights, in press.

The research perspective on utilizing and valuing tumor biobanks. Rush A, Matzke L, Cooper S, Gedye C, Byrne J, Watson P. Biopreserv Biobank, in press.

Research governance review of a negligible-risk research project: too much of a good thing? Rush A, Ling R, Carpenter JE, Carter C, Searles A, Byrne JA (2018). Res Ethics. 14: 1–12.

An investigation of clinically relevant germline variants detected by next generation sequencing in childhood cancer patients – a review of the literature. Sylvester D, Chen Y, Jamieson RV, Dalla-Pozza L, Byrne JA (2018). J Med Genet. 55: 785-93.

Striking similarities between publications from China describing single gene knockdown experiments in human cancer cell lines. Byrne JA, Labbé C (2017). Scientometrics. 110:1471-93.

PD-L1 expression in a large cohort of pediatric solid tumor patients and association with clinico-pathological features in neuroblastoma.  Saletta F, Vilain RE, Gupta AK, Nagabushan S, Yuksal A, Catchpoole D, Scolyer R, Byrne JA, McCowage G (2017).  JCO Precision Med. 1: 1-12.

Dropping in on the lipid droplet- tumor protein D52 (TPD52) as a new regulator and resident protein.  Chen Y, Frost S, Byrne JA (2016). Adipocyte 5: 326-32.

Quality and reporting practices in an Australian cancer biobank cohortRush A, Byrne JA (2016).  Clin Biochem 49: 492-7.

TPD52 expression increases neutral lipid storage within cultured cells.  Kamili A, Roslan N, Frost S, Cantrill LC, Wang D, Della-Franca A, Bright RK, Groblewski GE, Straub BK, Hoy AJ, Chen Y, Byrne JA (2015). J Cell Sci 128: 3223-38.

Molecular profiling of childhood cancer: biomarkers and novel therapies. Saletta F, Wadham C, Ziegler DS, Marshall GM, Haber M, McCowage G, Norris MD, Byrne JA (2014). BBA Clinical 1: 59-77

For a full list of publications, please click here.