Dr Marina Pajic

Group Leader - Personalised Cancer Therapeutics

Senior Research Officer

Conjoint/Adjunct Role(s)

Conjoint Senior Lecturer, St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Australia

Dr Marina Pajic graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelor and Master of Science degree in Pharmacology where she was awarded a University postgraduate bursary award in 2001. Her PhD in the laboratory of Prof Michelle Haber at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA), University of New South Wales, investigated chemoresistance mechanisms in childhood cancers, where she was supported by a University Postgraduate Award and a CCIA Postgraduate Scholarship. On completion of her PhD Dr Pajic joined the renowned group of Prof Piet Borst at the Netherlands Cancer Institute where she established physiologically-relevant mouse models to study mechanisms of chemoresistance in breast cancer. This project resulted in funding approval from the Dutch government and key first and co-author publications.  

In 2010, Dr Pajic moved back to Australia to join the Pancreatic Cancer Research Team and the Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative (APGI) at the Garvan Institute for Medical Research. As part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium sequencing effort, Dr Pajic has established a unique personalised medicine project for pancreatic cancer and since 2013 leads the Personalised Cancer Therapeutics Group.

She has been awarded the Cancer Institute New South Wales Early Career (2011) and Career Development Fellowships (2013) and Philip Hemstritch fellowship in pancreatic cancer.  She takes an active role in training emerging scientists (Honours and PhD projects), with all students currently supported by Sydney Catalyst, NHMRC and UNSW scholarships. Dr Pajic engages and communicates regularly with the public through the Institute’s open events. She is an independent reviewer for several journals, an EACR ambassador and an executive council member of the Australasian Pancreatic Club.

Research Interests

Research Strategy: Overcoming therapy failure in pancreatic cancer: elucidation of mechanisms of chemoresistance and the development of novel treatment strategies.
Main research interests:
Prioritise and validate novel targets and therapeutic regimens in early development for the treatment of PC.
Expand the portfolio and clinical relevance of preclinical models of PC to serve as a platform for evaluating and prioritising novel therapeutic strategies.
Improve our understanding about the molecular evolution of tumours following therapy and the molecular mechanisms underpinning de novo and acquired resistance in PC.

Awards and Honours

2015- Cancer Australia and NHMRC Project Grant Approvals as Chief Investigator (CIA and CID).
2015- Avner Pancreatic Cancer Foundation "Woolies on Wheels" Innovation Grant as Principal Investigator
2014- Three NHMRC Project Grant Approvals (CIA, B and D)
2014- NBCF Innovator Grant (CIB)
2013– Cancer Australia Project Grant (CIA)
2013- Cancer Institute New South Wales (CINSW) Career Development Fellowship (sole CI)
2013- Cancer Council NSW Project Grant (CID)
2013 – Travel Grants (CASS Foundation, Sydney Catalyst)
2012-2013 – Conference Awards (EACR Cancer Genomics Conference, Cambridge, UK; Australian Division of International Academy of Pathology - 38th annual scientific meeting, Australia; EACR 22nd Biennial Congress, Barcelona, Spain)
2012 and 2015 – CINSW Wildfire Award (Group Award)
2012-Present – European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) ambassador
2012-Present– Australasian Pancreatic Club (APC) Executive council member
2011-Present– Phillip Hemstritch fellowship in pancreatic cancer
2011-2013– CINSW early career development fellowship
2003– University Postgraduate Award (University of Sydney) and Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia Postgraduate Scholarship (University of New South Wales)
2002– Postgraduate Scholarship in Cellular Cancer Pharmacology (University of Sydney)
2001– University postgraduate bursary award (University of Auckland)

Education

2008 – PhD (Thesis: The role of multidrug resistance in childhood malignancies), Children’s Cancer Institute Australia / University of New South Wales - Australia
2001 – MSc (with Honours) in Pharmacology, University of Auckland, Auckland - New Zealand
1999 – BSc in Pharmacology, University of Auckland, Auckland - New Zealand

Selected Publications

Oplustil O’Connor L, Rulten SL, Cranston AN, Odedra R, Brown H, Jaspers JE, Jones L, Knights C, Evers B, Ting A, Bradbury R, Pajic M et al. The PARP inhibitor AZD2461 provides insights into the role of PARP3 inhibition for both synthetic lethality and tolerability with chemotherapy in preclinical models. Cancer Research 2016 (Accepted 27th February)

Bailey P, Chang DK, Nones K, Johns AL, Patch AM, Gingras MC, Miller DK, Christ AN, Bruxner TJ, Quinn MC, Nourse C, Murtaugh LC, Harliwong I, Idrisoglu S, Manning S, Nourbakhsh E, Wani S, Fink L, Holmes O, Chin V, Anderson MJ, Kazakoff S, Leonard C, Newell F, Waddell N, Wood S, Xu Q, Wilson PJ, Cloonan N, Kassahn KS, Taylor D, Quek K, Robertson A, Pantano L, Mincarelli L, Sanchez LN, Evers L, Wu J, Pinese M, Cowley MJ, Jones MD, Colvin EK, Nagrial AM, Humphrey ES, Chantrill LA, Mawson A, Humphris J, Chou A, Pajic M et al. Genomic analyses identify molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer. Nature 2016 531(7592):47-52

Waddell N, Pajic M, Patch AM, Chang DK, Kassahn KS, Bailey P, Johns AL, Miller D et al. Whole genomes redefine the mutational landscape of pancreatic cancer. Nature 2015 518(7540):495. * Significant national coverage, including interviews with Dr Pajic for SBS and Channel 7 national news.

Chantrill LA, Nagrial AM, Watson C, Johns AL, Martyn-Smith M, Simpson S, Mead S, Jones MD, Samra JS, Gill AJ, Watson N, Chin VT, Humphris JL, Chou A, Brown B, Morey A, Pajic M et al Precision Medicine for Advanced Pancreas Cancer: The Individualized Molecular Pancreatic Cancer Therapy (IMPaCT) Trial. Clinical Cancer Research 2015 21(9):2029.

Al-Ejeh F, Pajic M, Shi W, Kalimutho M, Miranda M, Nagrial AM, Chou A et al. Gemcitabine and CHK1 inhibition potentiate EGFR-directed radioimmunotherapy against pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Clinical Cancer Research 2014 20(12):3187.

Alexandrov LB, Nik-Zainal S, Wedge DC, Aparicio S, Behjati S, Biankin AV, Bignell GR, Bolli N, Borg A, Børresen-Dale A-L, Boyault S, Burkhardt B, Butler AP, Caldas C, Davies HR, Desmedt C, Eils R, Eyfjörð JE, Foekens JA, Greaves M, Hosoda F, Hutter B, Ilicic T, Imbeaud S, Imielinsk M, Jäger N, Pajic M. et al. Signatures of mutational processes in human cancer. Nature 2013; 500(7463):415-21

Chang DK, Johns AL, Scarlett CJ, Pajic M. et al. Molecular Pathological Phenotypes and Outcome in Adenocarcinoma of the Ampulla of Vater. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2013; 31(10):1348-56

Biankin AV, Waddell N, Kassahn KS, Gingras MC, Muthuswamy LB, Johns AL, Miller DK, Wilson PJ, Patch AM, Wu J, Chang DK, Cowley MJ, Gardiner BB, Song S, Harliwong I, Idrisoglu S, Nourse C, Nourbakhsh E, Manning S, Wani S, Gongora M, Pajic M. et al. Genomic Analysis Reveals Roles for Chromatin Modification and Axon Guidance in Pancreatic Cancer. Nature 2012; 491(7424):399-405 IF 36.3

Rottenberg S, Vollebergh M.A, de Hoon B, Schouten P, Kersbergen A, Zander S.A.L, Pajic M. et al. Genome-wide expression profiling of BRCA1;p53-deficient mammary tumors to predict chemotherapy response. Cancer Research 2012; 72(9):2350-61

Pérez-Mancera PA, Rust AG, van der Weyden L, Kristiansen G, Li A, Sarver AL, Silverstein KA, Grützmann R, Aust D, Rümmele P, Knösel T, Herd C, Stemple DL, Kettleborough R, Brosnan JA, Li A, Morgan R, Knight S, Yu J, Stegeman S, Collier LS, ten Hoeve JJ, de Ridder J, Klein AP, Goggins M, Hruban RH, Chang DK, Biankin AV, Grimmond SM; Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative, Pajic M et al. The deubiquitinase USP9X suppresses pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Nature 2012; 486(7402):266-70

Pajic M, Murray J, Marshall GM, Cole SP, Norris MD, Haber M. ABCC1 G2012T single nucleotide polymorphism is associated with patient outcome in primary neuroblastoma and altered stability of the ABCC1 gene transcript. Pharmacogenetics and Genomics 2011; 21(5):270

Pajic M, Kersbergen A, van Diepen F et al. Tumor-initiating cells are not enriched in cisplatin-surviving BRCA1;p53-deficient mammary tumor cells in vivo. Cell Cycle 2010; 9(18):3780

Pajic M, Iyer JK, Kersbergen A, et al. A moderate increase in Mdr1a/1b expression causes in vivo resistance to doxorubicin in a mouse model for hereditary breast cancer  Cancer Research  2009; 69 16:6396

Rottenberg S, Nygren AOH, Pajic M et al. Selective induction of chemotherapy resistance of mammary tumors in a conditional mouse model for hereditary breast cancer. Proc Natl Acad Sc USA 2007; 104(29):12117

Dr Marina Pajic