sarah-jane
dawson
Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson

"Cancers evolve during disease progression and under the selective pressure of therapy. Our ability to continually monitor cancer is critical to guide optimal therapeutic choices."

Professor Sarah-Jane Dawson
Professor Mark Dawson

"Cancers evolve during disease progression and under the selective pressure of therapy. Our ability to continually monitor cancer is critical to guide optimal therapeutic choices."

Cancers evolve during disease progression and under the selective pressure of therapy. Our ability to continually monitor cancer is critical to guide optimal therapeutic choices. Many cancers shed small amounts of DNA (called circulating tumour DNA or ctDNA) into the patient's bloodstream. It is now possible to accurately characterise the features of ctDNA, providing a comprehensive snapshot of the genomic landscape of the underlying tumour from a simple blood test. The measurement of ctDNA levels, and our ability to monitor how these levels change over time, can be used as a marker of disease progression or response to therapy. Our laboratory is focused on developing ctDNA as a minimally invasive ‘liquid biopsy’ alternative to tissue biopsies for use in cancer diagnostics and management.

Whilst circulating biomarkers hold great promise in cancer management, substantial effort is still required to understand their clinical application in various contexts. Our research program employs ctDNA based approaches to define tumour response kinetics and the mutational landscape at multiple time-points during a patient’s treatment, thus providing a powerful tool to define, understand and eventually overcome the molecular events that underpin resistance to current and emerging therapies. Moreover, our program focuses on establishing the clinical utility of ctDNA testing through appropriately designed translational research studies and prospective clinical trials, to facilitate the routine implementation of these approaches into clinical practice.

PEOPLE
Sarah Ftouni – Lab ManagerStephen Wong – Senior research officer, Postdoctoral fellowDineika Chandrananda – Bioinformatician, Postdoctoral fellowPaul Yeh – Haematologist, Postdoctoral fellowLaura MacPherson – Postdoctoral fellowChen-Fang Weng – Research AssistantYi-An (Annie) Ko – Research AssistantJerick Guinto – Research AssistantSushma Chandrashekar – Research AssistantHarrison Wood – Research AssistantMiriam Yeung – Bioinformatician, Research AssistantCassandra Litchfield – Bioinformatician, Research AssistantLavinia Tan –Medical Oncologist, PhD studentLouisa Lo – Medical Oncologist, PhD studentSebastian Hollizeck – Bioinformatician, PhD studentRishu Agarwal – Haematologist, Honorary postdoctoral fellow
Clare Gould – Haematologist, Postdoctoral Fellow (to start 2021)Peter Diamukis – Bioinformatician, Research technician (to start October / November 2020)

Key publications

Detection of cell-free microbial DNA using
a contaminant-controlled analysis framework

Detection of cell-free microbial DNA
using a contaminant-controlled
analysis framework

Detection of cell-free microbial DNA using
a contaminant-controlled analysis framework

Detection of cell-free microbial DNA using a contaminant-controlled analysis framework

Published in Genome Biology, 23 June 2021
Genome Biology, 23 June 2021

HIV is associated with an increased risk of
age-related clonal hematopoiesis among older adults

HIV is associated with an increased risk
of age-related clonal hematopoiesis
among older adults

HIV is associated with an increased risk of
age-related clonal hematopoiesis among older adults

HIV is associated with an increased risk of age-related clonal hematopoiesis among older adults

Published in Nature Medicine, 7 June 2021
Nature Medicine, 7 June 2021

Circulating tumor DNA in metastatic breast
cancer to guide clinical trial enrolment and
precision oncology: a cohort study

Circulating tumor DNA in metastatic
breast cancer to guide clinical
trial enrolment and precision
oncology: a cohort study

Circulating tumor DNA in metastatic breast cancer to guide clinical trial enrolment and precision oncology: a cohort study

Circulating tumor DNA in metastatic breast cancer to guide clinical trial enrolment and precision oncology: a cohort study

Published in PLOS Medicine, 1 October 2020
PLOS Medicine, 1 October 2020

Dynamic molecular monitoring reveals that
SWI/SNF mutations mediate resistance
to ibrutinib plus venetoclax in mantle cell lymphoma

Dynamic molecular monitoring reveals
that SWI/SNF mutations mediate
resistance to ibrutinib plus venetoclax
in mantle cell lymphoma

Dynamic molecular monitoring reveals that SWI/SNF
mutations mediate resistance to ibrutinib plus
venetoclax in mantle cell lymphoma

Dynamic molecular monitoring reveals that SWI/SNF mutations mediate resistance to ibrutinib plus venetoclax in mantle cell lymphoma

Published in Nature, January 2019
Nature, January 2019

Circulating tumor DNA analysis and functional
imaging provide complementary approaches
for comprehensive disease monitoring
in metastatic melanoma

Circulating tumor DNA analysis and
functional imaging provide complementary approaches for comprehensive disease monitoring in metastatic melanoma

Circulating tumor DNA analysis and functional
imaging provide complementary approaches for
comprehensive disease monitoring in metastatic melanoma

Circulating tumor DNA analysis and functional imaging provide complementary approaches for comprehensive disease monitoring in metastatic melanoma

Published in JCO Precision Oncology, 27 April 2017
JCO Precision Oncology, 27 April 2017

Prediction and monitoring of relapse in Stage III
melanoma using circulating tumour DNA

Prediction and monitoring of relapse
in Stage III melanoma using
circulating tumour DNA

Prediction and monitoring of relapse in Stage III
melanoma using circulating tumour DNA

Prediction and monitoring of relapse in Stage III melanoma using circulating tumour DNA

Published in Annals of Oncology, 1 May 2019
Annals of Oncology, 1 May 2019

Circulating tumor DNA reflects treatment response and
clonal evolution in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Circulating tumor DNA reflects treatment response and clonal evolution in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Circulating tumor DNA reflects treatment response and
clonal evolution in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Circulating tumor DNA reflects treatment response and clonal evolution in chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Published in Nature Communications, 17 March 2017
Nature Communications, 17 March 2017

Molecular disease monitoring using circulating
tumour DNA in myelodysplastic syndromes

Molecular disease monitoring using circulating tumour DNA in
myelodysplastic syndromes

Molecular disease monitoring using circulating
tumour DNA in myelodysplastic syndromes

Molecular disease monitoring using circulating tumour DNA in myelodysplastic syndromes

Published in Blood, 23 March 2017
Blood, 23 March 2017

Meet the team

Sarah Ftouni

Lab Manager

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Stephen Wong

Postdoctoral Fellow

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Dineika Chandrananda

Bioinformatician, Postdoctoral Fellow

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Paul Yeh

Haematologist, Postdoctoral Fellow

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Chen-Fang Weng

Research Assistant

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Yi-An (Annie) Ko

Research Assistant

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Jerick Guinto

Research Assistant

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Sushma Chandrashekar

Research Assistant

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Miriam Yeung

Bioinformatician, Research Assistant

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Cassandra Litchfield

Bioinformatician, Research Assistant

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Lavinia Tan

Medical Oncologist, PhD Student

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Louisa Lo

Medical Oncologist, PhD Student

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Sebastian Hollizeck

Bioinformatician, PhD Student

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Rishu Agarwal

Haematologist, Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow

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Clare Gould

Haematologist, Postdoctoral Fellow

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Jessica Han

Research Assistant

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Laure Talarmain

Bioinformatician, Postdoctoral Fellow

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