About Dr Emily Colvin

I have always been interested in the complexity of cancer and the characteristics that make some cancers so difficult to treat

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynaecological cancer in Australian women and is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, resulting in a poor prognosis Ovarian tumours are made up of tumour cells, but also contain cells that comprise the structural support and blood vessels. Until recently, research has mainly focused on the tumour cells; however, it is becoming increasingly clear that other cells present in the tumour are able to interact with tumour cells, influencing their behaviour to make them more aggressive. Our research involves characterising these other cell types and their interactions with tumour cells to identify the factors that contribute to ovarian tumour progression

I completed a BMedSc with First Class Honours in Physiology in 2005. My Honours research identifying the potential clinical use of human fetal pancreas as a treatment for diabetes was published in a joint first author paper in Diabetes. In 2006 I was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award and commenced my PhD in the Pancreatic Cancer Group at the Garvan Institute. My PhD focused on investigating aberrations in embryonic signalling pathways in pancreatic cancer, resulting in a first author publication in PLoS One. A significant part of my PhD involved validating biomarkers of potential clinical use in large cohorts of pancreatic cancer patients and a large part of this work contributed to a publication in the journal Gastroenterology. This paper identified S100A2 expression as a predictor of response to pancreatectomy and suggested that high S100A2 expression may be a marker of a metastatic phenotype. This work highlighted the immense potential of using biomarkers in the clinic to better guide treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients and is being further explored through prospective testing in clinical trials. Throughout my PhD, I also collaborated on several other projects with researchers and clinicians from the Pancreatic Cancer Group as well as researchers from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute resulting in twelve publications, including Nature, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and Cell Stem Cell. I was responsible for establishing several pancreatic cancer mouse models, including transgenic, carcinogen-induced and xenograft models. The xenograft models are currently being used to generate resources for the International Cancer Genome Consortium, a large internationally funded research project aiming to sequence the genome of around 50 cancer types. In 2007 I received funding from the Cancer Institute NSW (CINSW) in the form of a Research Scholar Award, and in 2009 when I was awarded the NSW Premier's Award for Outstanding Cancer Research Scholar of the Year.
I completed my PhD and commenced my first postdoctoral position in the Hormones and Cancer Division of the Kolling Institute, University of Sydney, in 2011. In 2011 I was successful in obtaining my first independent research grant as an early career scientist, awarded by the University of Sydney to investigate the role of the tumour microenvironment in ovarian cancer. In 2012 I was awarded a CINSW Early Career Researcher Fellowship as well as a project grant from the Cure Cancer Australia Foundation co-funded with Cancer Australia as part of the Priority Driven Collaborative Cancer Research Scheme.

Selected publications

For a comprehensive list of Dr Colvin's publicatons, please visit her Sydney Medical School profile page.