About Dr Kristina Cook

My work is highly cross-disciplinary with a translational focus. It incorporates a wide range of disciplines, particularly cell biology, biochemistry and chemical biology. Oxygen is essential to human survival. Both localized and systemic oxygen deprivation are common in many diseases (cancer, inflammatory diseases, heart disease, certain sleep disorders, pulmonary tuberculosis). My research is in understanding the effect hypoxia has in the body, particularly in cancer and sleep. Another component of my research involves drug development and targeting hypoxia activated pathways for cancer treatment. I am always happy to meet with students interested in joining the lab.

My research aims are to understand the effects of hypoxia (low oxygen) in cancer development, growth and spread. Hypoxia leads to activation of >1,000 genes, which can increase cell survival and metastasis, alter cell metabolism and worsen outcomes for cancer patients. Hypoxia commonly occurs in solid tumours. The tumour cells grow rapidly and outgrow blood vessels, which supply oxygen. This leads to the centre of the tumour becoming hypoxic and activation of the transcription factor Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF). Activation of HIF in tumour cells is associated with worse cancer outcomes. Recently, several epidemiology studies have found that patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) have higher rates of cancer and cancer mortality, yet the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In OSA, blood oxygen levels rapidly fluctuate and decrease throughout the night. The effect of exposing cancers to these drops in oxygen are not understood, however it may be playing a role in altering cancer outcomes, particularly through activation of HIF. My research has been on understanding the various circumstances that can lead to HIF activation and how HIF controls expression of its target genes in cancer.

Dr Kristina Cook is currently a research fellow at the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney since January 2017. Prior to this she had post-doctoral positions at the Centenary Institute and UNSW with Professor Philip Hogg.
Dr Cook completed her D.Phil. in Chemical Biology at the University of Oxford in 2010 in a collaborative program with the NIH (USA) as an OxCam Biomedical Research Scholar. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from San Diego State University in 2005, with a B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a minor in Chemistry (awarded a ‘distinction', equiv. to the University Medal). Dr Cook has an h-index of 8 and >800 citations. Dr Cook's review is cited by the National Cancer Institute's official patient guide to angiogenesis inhibitors (NIH, USA) and by UpToDate, a physician's resource.

Dr Cook has received multiple scientific awards and grants, including a Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (2017-2020), a University of Sydney Research Fellowship (2017-2020), a Females in Science award (2016), a Career Advancement Award (2015), an AACR Busch Scholar in Training award (2008), and an NIH/NCI Director's Innovation Award (2007) with Dr William D Figg. She also received a prestigious NIH OxCam Biomedical Research Scholar award (2005-2009). She was awarded seven scholarships and two research fellowships for outstanding academic achievement during her undergraduate studies.

Selected publications

For a full list of her publications see her academic profile page at: