Professor John Hooper is a Mater Foundation Fellow and a Senior Research Fellow at Mater Research. John leads the Cancer Cell Biology Research Group and is the author of over 70 publications with his research currently focused on understanding molecular mechanisms underlying cancer.
John’s lab has a particular interest in aggressive malignancies, including cancers of the prostate, colon/rectum, pancreas and ovary, and works closely with Mater clinicians to identify key areas of need in these malignancies, with an ongoing emphasis on the role in cancer of cell surface receptor systems. The lab’s work is underpinned by molecular, enzymology and cell biology approaches, analysis of human tissues and pre-clinical models of cancer to identify cancer promoting molecular pathways and to test new anti-cancer drugs.
Since 2010, John has helped to drive the establishment of gynaecological, urological and breast cancer research teams at the Mater Hospitals. These are closely aligned with Mater’s clinical multidisciplinary teams and involve surgeons, medical oncologists, pathologists, palliative care physicians, nurses and basic researchers.
John is grateful for the more than $6.5 million in research funding that has supported his research from a range of agencies including the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Mater Foundation, the Australian Research Council, Cancer Council Queensland, the Wesley Research Institute and The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia.
‘My research focus on cancer continues to be motivated by an innate drive to understand the aberrant molecular interactions that cause cells to grow, move and survive in settings where they would normally die. My goal is to develop novel therapies that modulate these interactions in such a way that they result in cancer cell death, tumour regression and improved patient survival and quality of life.’
More than 70% of ovarian cancers and 80% of pancreatic cancers are diagnosed at advanced stage. Definitive diagnosis requires invasive procedures to collect tumour specimens for assessment by a pathologist. To provide new diagnostic tools and therapeutic agents, our research is focusing on cell surface proteins that are enriched on the surface of the malignant cells of these cancers. Administered intravenously, biomolecules that bind to these cell surface proteins can be effective at delivering radionuclides and cytotoxic payloads to detect or treat preclinical models of ovarian and pancreatic cancer. We are currently conducting a phase I safety trial evaluating one of these agents for PET-CT based detection of ovarian cancer.