A/Prof Alex Swarbrick

Alex graduated with a Bsc (Hons I) in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UNSW in 1995. After obtaining his PhD in 2003 he undertook postdoctoral training with Nobel laureate J. Michael Bishop at the University of California, San Francisco, supported by a CJ Martin Travelling Fellowship from the NHM
Lab Head - Tumour Progression

Senior Research Fellow

Conjoint/Adjunct Role(s)

Conjoint Associate Professor, St Vincent's Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, UNSW Sydney

Alex graduated with a Bsc (Hons I) in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UNSW in 1995. After obtaining his PhD in 2003 he undertook postdoctoral training with Nobel laureate J. Michael Bishop at the University of California, San Francisco, supported by a CJ Martin Travelling Fellowship from the NHMRC.

In 2008 Alex established the Tumour Progression Laboratory in the Garvan Institute and in 2012 was appointed co-Head of the Breast Translational Oncology Program in the newly commissioned Kinghorn Cancer Centre. Alex is a co-joint Associate Professor at UNSW

Research Interests

The drivers and consequences of cellular heterogeneity in cancer
Single cell transcriptomics
Gene regulatory networks

Awards and Honours

2013 - National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellowship II
2012 - National Breast Cancer Foundation Fellowship
2011 - NSW Premier’s Award for Outstanding Research Fellow 2011
2009 - CINSW Early Career Fellowship
2007 - Sydney University Medal for Excellence in Medical Research


2003 - PhD, University of New South Wales, Sydney - Australia
1995 - Molecular Biology, 1st Class Honours, University of New South Wales, Sydney - Australia


June 2016

Australian Provisional Patent Application

Methods of treating breast cancer and reagents therefore


September 2016

Australian Provisional Patent Application

Methods of treating neuroblastoma and reagents therefore


These two patent applications cover our discovery of novel therapeutic microRNA targets in cancer



Selected Publications

Cazet, A. S., Hui, M. N., Elsworth, B. L., Wu, S. Z., Roden, D., Chan, C.-L., . . . Swarbrick, A. (2018). Targeting stromal remodeling and cancer stem cell plasticity to overcome chemoresistance in triple negative breast cancer. Nature Communications, Accepted. doi:https://doi.org/10.1101/215954

Lin, H. M., Nikolic, I., Yang, J., Castillo, L., Deng, N., Chan, C. L., . . . Swarbrick, A. (2018). MicroRNAs as potential therapeutics to enhance chemosensitivity in advanced prostate cancer. Sci Rep, 8(1), 7820. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-26050-y

Nikolic, I., Elsworth, B., Dodson, E., Wu, S. Z., Gould, C. M., Mestdagh, P., . . . Swarbrick, A. (2017). Discovering cancer vulnerabilities using high-throughput micro-RNA screening. Nucleic Acids Research, 45(22), 12657-12670.

Papachristou, E. K., Kishore, K., Holding, A. N., Harvey, K., Roumeliotis, T. I., Chilamakuri, C. S. R., . . . Carroll, J. S. (2018). Quantitative Multiplexed Rapid Immunoprecipitation Mass spectrometry of Endogenous proteins (qPLEX-RIME) for monitoring the Dynamics of Chromatin-Associated Complexes. Nature Communications, Accepted.

Lin HM, Mahon KL, Spielman C, Gurney H, Mallesara G, Stockler MR, Bastick P, Briscoe K, Marx G, Swarbrick A, Horvath LG.  Phase 2 study of circulating microRNA biomarkers in castration-resistant prostate cancer.  Br J Cancer. 2017. [Epub ahead of print].

Beckers RK, Selinger C, Vilain R, Madore J, Wilmott JS, Harvey K, Holliday A, Cooper CL, Robbins E, Gillet D, Kennedy CW, Gluch L, Carmalt H, Mak C, Warrier S, Gee HE, Chan C, McLean A, Walker E, McNeil CM, Beith JM, Swarbrick A, Scolyer RA, O'Toole SA. PDl1 expression in triple-negative breast cancer is associated with tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes and improved outcome.   Pathology. 2016; 48 Suppl 1:S146-S147.

Phua, Y., A. Nguyen, D. Roden, B. Elsworth, I. Nikolic, J. Yang, A. Mcfarland, R. Russell, W. Kaplan, R. Nair, E. Zotenko, S. Tan, S. Clark, H. Kouros-Mehr, and A. Swarbrick, MicroRNA profiling of the developing mammary gland identifies miR-184 as a candidate breast tumour suppressor gene.  Breast Cancer Res. 2015; 17:83. 

Junankar, S., G. Shay, J. Jurczyluk, N. Ali, J. Down, N. Pocock, A. Parker, A. Nguyen, S. Sun, B. Kashemirov, C.E. McKenna, P.I. Croucher, A. Swarbrick, K. Weilbaecher, T.G. Phan, and M.J. Rogers, Real-time intravital imaging establishes tumor-associated macrophages as the extraskeletal target of bisphosphonate action in cancer. Cancer Discovery, 2015. 5(1): p. 35-42.

Junankar, S., B. L., D.L. Roden, R. Nair, B. Elsworth, D. Gallego-Ortega, P. Lacaze, A. Cazet, I. Nikolic, W. Siang-Teo, J. Yang, A. McFarland, K. Harvey, M.J. Naylor, S.R. Lakhani, P.T. Simpson, A. Raghavendra, J. Saunus, J. Madore, W. Kaplan, C. Ormandy, E.K.A. Millar, S. O'Toole, K. Yun, and A. Swarbrick, ID4 controls mammary stem cells and marks breast cancers with a stem cell-like phenotype Nature Communications, 2015 6:6548.

Liu, P.Y., D. Erriquez, G.M. Marshall, A.E. Tee, P. Polly, M. Wong, B. Liu, J.L. Bell, X.D. Zhang, G. Milazzo, B.B. Cheung, A. Fox, A. Swarbrick, S. Huttelmaier, M. Kavallaris, G. Perini, J.S. Mattick, M.E. Dinger, and T. Liu, Effects of a novel long noncoding RNA, lncUSMycN, on N-Myc expression and neuroblastoma progression. J Natl Cancer Inst, 2014. 106 (7).

Nair R, Roden DL, Teo WS, McFarland A, Junankar S, Ye S, Nguyen A, Yang J, Nikolic I, Hui M, Morey A, Shah J, Pfefferle AD, Usary J, Selinger C, Baker LA, Armstrong N, Cowley MJ, Naylor MJ, Ormandy CJ, Lakhani SR, Herschkowitz JI, Perou CM, Kaplan W, O'Toole SA, Swarbrick A. c-Myc and Her2 cooperate to drive a stem-like phenotype with poor prognosis in breast cancer. Oncogene.  Oncogene, 2014. 33(30): p. 3992-4002

Plummer, P.N., R. Freeman, R.J. Taft, J. Vider, M. Sax, B.A. Umer, D. Gao, C. Johns, J.S. Mattick, S.D. Wilton, V. Ferro, N.A. McMillan, A. Swarbrick, V. Mittal, and A.S. Mellick, MicroRNAs Regulate Tumor Angiogenesis Modulated by Endothelial Progenitor Cells. Cancer Res, 2013;73(1): p. 341-352.

Croucher, D.R., Hochgrafe, F., Zhang, L., Liu, L., Lyons, R.J., Rickwood, D., Tactacan, C.M., Browne, B.C., Ali, N., Chan, H., Shearer, R., Gallego-Ortega, D., Saunders, D.N., Swarbrick, A. and Daly, R.J.  Involvement of Lyn and the atypical kinase SgK269/PEAK1 in a basal breast cancer signaling pathway. Cancer Research. 2013;73(6): p. 1969-1980.

Kalyuga, M., D. Gallego-Ortega, H.J. Lee, D.L. Roden, M.J. Cowley, C.E. Caldon, A. Stone, S.L. Allerdice, F. Valdes-Mora, R. Launchbury, A.L. Statham, N. Armstrong, M.C. Alles, A. Young, A. Egger, W. Au, C.L. Piggin, C.J. Evans, A. Ledger, T. Brummer, S.R. Oakes, W. Kaplan, J.M. Gee, R.I. Nicholson, R.L. Sutherland, A. Swarbrick, M.J. Naylor, S.J. Clark, J.S. Carroll, and C.J. Ormandy, ELF5 Suppresses Estrogen Sensitivity and Underpins the Acquisition of Antiestrogen Resistance in Luminal Breast Cancer. PLoS Biol, 2012; 10(12): p. e1001461.

Croucher, D., F. Hochgräfe, L. Zhang, N. Ali, D. Rickwood, C. Tactacan, B. Browne, R. Lyons, L. Liu, A. Swarbrick, and R. Daly, A novel mitogenic signaling pathway in basal breast cancer involving Lyn and the atypical kinase SgK269. Cancer Research, 2012;

O'Toole, S.A., D.A. Machalek, R.F. Shearer, E.K. Millar, R. Nair, P. Schofield, D. McLeod, C.L. Cooper, C.M. McNeil, A. McFarland, A. Nguyen, C.J. Ormandy, M.R. Qiu, B. Rabinovich, L.G. Martelotto, D. Vu, G.E. Hannigan, E.A. Musgrove, D. Christ, R.L. Sutherland, D.N. Watkins, and A. Swarbrick, Hedgehog Overexpression Is Associated with Stromal Interactions and Predicts for Poor Outcome in Breast Cancer. Cancer Research, 2011; 71(11): p. 4002-4014.

Mellick, A.S., P.N. Plummer, D.J. Nolan, D. Gao, K. Bambino, M. Hahn, R. Catena, V. Turner, K. McDonnell, R. Benezra, R. Brink, A. Swarbrick, and V. Mittal, Using the transcription factor inhibitor of DNA binding 1 to selectively target endothelial progenitor cells offers novel strategies to inhibit tumor angiogenesis and growth. Cancer Research, 2010; 70(18): p. 7273-82.

Swarbrick, A*., S.L. Woods, A. Shaw, A. Balakrishnan, Y. Phua, A. Nguyen, Y. Chanthery, L. Lim, L.J. Ashton, R.L. Judson, N. Huskey, R. Blelloch, M. Haber, M.D. Norris, P. Lengyel, C.S. Hackett, T. Preiss, A. Chetcuti, C.S. Sullivan, E.G. Marcusson, W. Weiss, N. L'Etoile, and A. Goga*, miR-380-5p represses p53 to control cellular survival and is associated with poor outcome in MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma. Nature Medicine, 2010; 16(10): p. 1134-40. * Co-corresponding authors

Swarbrick, A*., E. Roy, T. Allen, and J.M. Bishop*, Id1 cooperates with oncogenic Ras to induce metastatic mammary carcinoma by subversion of the cellular senescence response. PNAS, 2008; 105(14): p. 5402-5407. *Co-corresponding authors

Person portrait

A/Prof Alex Swarbrick

Research group