Dr Belinda Parker, BSc, PhD
Senior Research Fellow, ARC Future Fellow
Head of the Cancer Microenvironment And Immunology Laboratory,
La Trobe University
Dr Parker graduated with a PhD (Biochemistry) from La Trobe University in 2002. Her postdoctoral training began in 2001 in the Breast Cancer Program, Department of Oncology at Johns Hopkins University in the field of breast cancer biology and invasion. In 2003, she returned to Australia on a US Army Department of Defense BCRP Postdoctoral Fellowship to join the Metastasis Research Laboratory at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and initiate studies into cell specific mechanisms of metastasis using immunocompetent models.
This work initiated new projects in the laboratory that saw Dr Parker attract competitive funding internationally (DOD BCRP Concept Award) and nationally (NHMRC and CCV project grants, NHMRC Career Development Fellowship) and a promotion to Team Leader in 2012. In early 2013, Belinda moved to the new La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science at La Trobe University where she is currently Head of the Cancer Microenvironment and Immunology Laboratory.
Dr Parker’s research focuses on the interactions between tumour cells and surrounding “normal cells” that promote cancer invasion and metastasis. She has a particular interest in bone metastasis, including the mechanisms of cancer dormancy and outgrowth in the bone microenvironment. Through use of syngeneic mouse models of cancer, Dr Parker’s laboratory has identified key molecular pathways that are altered in the tumour microenvironment to promote bone metastasis. A focus of the lab is assessing the prognostic and therapeutic potential of targeting such pathways in metastatic disease.
Her research is multidisciplinary, crossing cancer biology, metastasis, immunology and therapy. Expertise of the lab includes in vitro and in vivo assessment of metastatic phenotype, immune response and bone degradation, along with visualisation of metastases and protein targets by histopathology and in vivo imaging. One key aspect of research in her laboratory is the tumour-induced suppression of anti-tumour immunity (via altered type I interferon signalling). Her recent publications in this area suggest that apart from coopting bone cells such as osteoclasts and osteoblasts, tumour cells also need to suppress anti-tumour immunity to survive in the bone environment.
Dr Parker is currently an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and recently received an ARC Future Fellowship to commence in 2014. She also currently holds two NHMRC project grants as CIA.