Invasion and Metastasis Lab

Invasion and Metastasis Lab

Cancer invasion and metastasis occur in a complex three dimensional environment, with reciprocal feedback from the surrounding host tissue and stroma governing cancer cell behaviour. Understanding this behaviour in an intact host setting allows us to examine, in a more physiological context, the aberrant regulation of critical events that lead to dissemination and spread of the primary tumour.  Intravital (in vivo) imaging is providing new insights on how cells behave in their native microenvironment thereby improving our understanding of disease progression.

In our laboratory we use novel state-of-the-art intravital imaging approaches and new fluorescent mouse models to uncouple the metastatic process into key stages in order to pinpoint critical events that drive tumour invasion and metastasis. Our approach permits real-time imaging ranging from whole body tumour progression to single-cell invasion events, and helps us to understand how tumour cell (a) dissociation (b) invasion or (c) progression are controlled and how this is linked to the development of invasive or metastatic cancer.


Video above: RhoA, Live and in Color. The small GTPase RhoA is a major signaling hub in most cells, but its actions can be difficult to track. Timpson and colleagues developed a biosensor that reveals RhoA activation in living tissues and used it to examine signaling in real time. This movie shows three prime examples. Read the full story here.

We also explore properties of the three-dimensional tumour microenvironment that contribute to poor drug targeting in order to pinpoint critical barriers that impair efficient tumour targeting. Combination therapy aimed at counteracting these barriers are then employed to enhance drug penetrance and efficiency in vivo and improve overall drug delivery outcome.

A key to our laboratory’s approach is to use established in vitro and in vivo 2D and 3D technology to examine cancer progression at a sub-cellular and molecular level in situ. Key techniques and current applications include:

  • Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM) & Fluorescence Resonance Energy transfer (FRET) analysis allow for accurate, time-dependent, monitoring of signalling events during drug treatment in a live tumour setting.
  • We use Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP) & Photoactivation in live tumours to examine and predict cell-cell junction turnover during early stages of cancer dissemination and invasion.

3D organotypic matrices serve as a malleable platform for the assessment of vital tumour/stromal interaction in a 3D context, providing a powerful tool to complement in vivo investigations.


Lab Awards and Honours

Michael Trpceski: Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting 2022, Best Poster Prize in Health
Jessie Zhu: Maridulu Budyari Gumal (SPHERE) Cancer CAG PhD Scholarship Top-Up Award 2022-2025
Michael Trpceski: Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting 2022 Travel Scholarship
Michael Trpceski: Australian Society for Medical Research NSW Annual Scientific Meeting 2022, Best Lightning Talk Award
Cecilia Chambers: The Hunter Valley Meeting 2022, Best Poster Award
Kendelle Murphy: Lorne Cancer Conference 2022, Best ECR Presentation (Oncology One)
Michael Trpceski: UNSW Faculty of Medicine and Health White Walker Cancer Research Scholarship 2022-2026
Brooke A. Pereira: Cancer Institute of New South Wales Early Career Research Fellowship 2022-2024
Kendelle Murphy: Cancer Institute of New South Wales Early Career Research Fellowship 2022-2024
Brooke A. Pereira: PanKind Accelerator New Treatment Grant 2022-2023 (Co-Principal Investigator)
Brooke A. Pereira: UNSW Medicine E/MCR Cancer Research Seed Grant 2022 (Chief Investigator) 
Brooke A. Pereira: St. Vincent’s Seed Funding Grant 2022 (Chief Investigator) 
Max Nobis: Australia and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology Early Career Researcher Award 2021
Kendelle Murphy: Matrix Biology Society of Australia and New Zealand Paper of the Year (ECR Category) 2021
Kendelle Murphy: Matrix Biology Society of Australia and New Zealand Paper of the Month (December 2021)
Brooke A. Pereira: 10x Genomics & Millennium Science Spatial Pioneers Fellowship 2021
Michael Trpceski: EMBL Australia Postgraduate Symposium 2021, Lightning Talk Prize 
Kendelle Murphy: OzMRS Ms Megan Wheeler Early Career Researcher of the Year Award 2021
Cecilia Chambers: St Vincent's Campus Research Symposium 2021: Best student oral presentation
Shona Richie: Sydney Catalyst Research Showcase 2021: Best T1/T2 oral presentation
Cecilia Chambers: Baxter Family Postgraduate Scholarship 2020
Shona Richie: St Vincent’s Campus Research Symposium 2020: best rapid-fire presentation
Brooke A. Pereira: Sydney Catalyst Pilot and Seed Funding 2020
Shona Richie: Pan Pacific Connective Tissue Societies International Symposium 2020: Dennis Lowther Student
Claire Vennin et al, CAF hierarchy driven by pancreatic cancer cell p53-status creates a pro-metastatic and chemoresistant environment via perlecan. Nature Communications, Prize winner“Paper of the month Matrix Biology Society of Australia and New Zealand (MBSANZ) Sept, 2019"
Kendelle Murphy: EACR-Worldwide Cancer Research Meeting Bursary to attend Goodbye Flat Biology 2019
Kendelle Murphy: Metastasis Research Society Meeting Bursary Award to attend Seed and Soil 2019.
David Herrmann: Sydney Catalyst Pilot & Seed Funding Award
Cecilia Chambers: Sydney Catalyst Postgraduate & Early Career Researcher Symposium Best Virtual Poster 2019
Max Nobis: Hunter Cell Biology Sydney Catalyst Poster Prize 2019
David Herrmann: Hunter Cell Biology F1000Prime Poster Prize 2019
Kendelle Murphy, Avner Pancreatic Foundation Symposium, Rapid Fire Young Investigator Speaker Awards, November 2018
Wildfire Highly Cited Publication, The Australian Pancreatic Cancer Genome Initiative, 2018 
Andrew McCulloch - Best Poster at 26th St. Vincent's Campus Research Symposium 2018
Max Nobis - Best Flash Talk at 7th Annual St. Vincent's Research Campus Post Doc Symposium 2018
Claire Vennin - 2017 Garvan Thesis Prize
Kendelle Murphy - 3D models poster prize at the British Association for Cancer Research (BACR) tumour microenvironment meeting (2017)
Claire Vennin - Best Translation Poster at Cell Signaling and Translational Implications (CSTI) 2017
Sean Warren
- Palmer Innovation Prize 2017
Max Nobis - Best poster at Lorne Cancer Conference 2017
David Herrmann - awarded a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Travel Award (2017)
Clare Vennin - received the F1000 Associate Faculty Member Travel Grant for the Cell Biology Faculty (2016)
Claire Vennin - Stuart Furler Travel Award recipient (14th December 2016)
Claire Vennin - Best Cancer-related Poster Prize at 8th Garvan Signalling Meeting (1st November 2016, sponsored by Sydney Catalyst)
Sean Warren - Best Post Doc Presentation Prize at 7th International Nanomedicine Conference (29th June 2016)
Claire Vennin - Sydney Catalyst Research Scholarship and Top Up Awards (2016)
David Hermann - Young Garvan Award Finalist 2016: “Edgy Ideas
Claire Vennin - 2015 Dennis Loather Student Poster Award at the Matrix Biology Society of Australia and New Zealand (30th October 2015)
Claire Vennin - Award for Best Presentation at the 23rd St Vincent's Campus Research Symposium (9th September 2015)
James Conway - Best poster at The Australian Society for Medical Research NSW Scientific Meeting 2015 (1st June 2015)
Claire Vennin - Best oral presentation award at the Sydney Catalyst Post-graduate and Early Career Symposium (29th April 2015)


Lab Alumni

Dr James Conway - currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Turku in Finland. 

Dr Claire Vennin - currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. 

Morghan Lucus -currently working towards a PhD at the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona

Amr Allam - currently working towards a PhD at the Peter MacCallum Research Institute in Melbourne with Prof. Sarah Russell (Centre for Microphotonics, Swinburne University).
Nadine Reischmann - currently working towards a PhD at the University of Freiburg in Germany with Dr. Tilman Brummer (Institute for Molecular Medicine and Cell Research).
Lena Wullkopf - currently working towards a PhD at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark with Dr. Janine Erler (Biotech Research and Innovation Centre).

Software Tools
Open source tools developed by the Timpson lab are available to download at

3D Organotypic Matrix Database/Resource
Our 3D Organotypic Matrix Database/Resource contains over >11,000 organotypic invasion samples and embedded tissues.


Invasion and Metastasis Group work: Images • Videos