Skip to main content
Michelle McDonald

Dr Michelle McDonald

Group Leader
Matrix and Metastasis Lab

Dr Michelle McDonald’s research careers spans over 19 years, attaining her PhD in 2008 at The Kids Research Institute, Westmead, she is currently Group Leader of the Bone Microenvironment Group at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Through the development of a novel intravital imaging technique her research has allowed, for the first time, visualisation and fate tracking of dormant and actively growing tumour cells within living bone, as well as visualisation of bone cells in real time. This approach has revealed previously unappreciated bone cell dynamics and interactions, thereby advancing our fundamental understanding of osteoclast biology, and uncovering mechanisms behind unexpected clinical responses to anti-resorptive therapies. In addition, bone cell regulation of tumour cell behaviour, including dormancy, chemo-resistance, and disease relapse, has been demonstrated using this technique. Combined with her extensive experience using therapeutic agents to modulate bone cell activity in vivo, her group is working to define how these agents can be repurposed to prevent tumour-induced bone destruction and prevent tumour growth through regulating the bone micro-environment. This work has recently attracted a number of awards, grants and international invitations to speak, and spans collaborations with academic and industry partners internationally.

Dr McDonald has always worked closely with clinician scientists, which has influenced the development of her research towards clinically translatable outcomes. Michelle regularly performs peer reviews, sits on the editorial board for the Journal of Bone Oncology and Clinical Reviews in Bone and Mineral Research and has also held positions on international scientific committees and editorial boards (IBMS, ASBMR IFMRS and ANZBMS). Her research interests have also allowed multiple opportunities to work with industry and pharmaceutical companies, and more recently form active collaborations within Australia and with groups form the UK and the USA.


  • 2021Bone Health Foundation/ANZBMS Grant in Aide.
  • 2020Cancer Council NSW Project Grant
  • 2019ASBMR Rising Star Award
  • 2019Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellowship
  • 2019Weizmann-Garvan Collaborative Research Program Grant
  • 2018CHAMP Young Pioneer Award - Garvan Institute
  • 2017Amgen Outstanding Abstract Award. ANZBMS Brisbane
  • 2016Amgen Outstanding Abstract Award. ANZBMS Gold Coast
  • 2016ANZBMS Kaye Ibbertson Award for Bone and Mineral Medicine
  • 2015Amgen Outstanding Abstract Award. ANZBMS Hobart November

Selected publications

See all publications
  • 2020
    EMBO Reports10.15252/embr.202050162

    Prostate cancer cell-intrinsic interferon signaling regulates dormancy and metastatic outgrowth in bone.

    Katie L Owen, Linden J Gearing, Damien J Zanker, Natasha K Brockwell, Weng Hua Khoo, Daniel L Roden, Marek Cmero, Stefano Mangiola, Matthew K Hong, Alex J Spurling, Michelle McDonald, Chia-Ling Chan, Anupama Pasam, Ruth J Lyons, Hendrika M Duivenvoorden, Andrew Ryan, Lisa M Butler, John M Mariadason, Tri Giang Phan, Vanessa M Hayes, Shahneen Sandhu, Alexander Swarbrick, Niall M Corcoran, Paul J Hertzog, Peter I Croucher, Chris Hovens, Belinda S Parker
  • 2017
    Journal of Cellular Physiology10.1002/jcp.25976

    The skeletal cell-derived molecule sclerostin drives bone marrow adipogenesis.

    Heather Fairfield, Carolyne Falank, Elizabeth Harris, Victoria Demambro, Michelle McDonald, Jessica A Pettitt, Sindhu T Mohanty, Peter Croucher, Ina Kramer, Michaela Kneissel, Clifford J Rosen, Michaela R Reagan