Researcher

Dr Frances Louise Byrne

Fields of Research (FoR)

Cancer Cell Biology, Cell Metabolism, Chemotherapy

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Biography

Professional Awards and Experience

2022-2024            Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow (UNSW)

2021                       Associate Fellow (AFHEA) Advance Higher Education

2021                       Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) Fellow

2020                       Bridge Program participant

2018-2021            Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellow (UNSW)

2014-2017          Hope Funds for Cancer...view more

Professional Awards and Experience

2022-2024            Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow (UNSW)

2021                       Associate Fellow (AFHEA) Advance Higher Education

2021                       Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) Fellow

2020                       Bridge Program participant

2018-2021            Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellow (UNSW)

2014-2017          Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellow (UVA/UNSW)

2012-2014          Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Virginia (USA)

2008-2012          Anthony Rothe Memorial Trust PhD Scholar, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW)

2005-2008          Research Assistant, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW)

2002-2005          Methods Development Scientist, GroPep Bioreagents (Adelaide)

1999-2003          Bachelor of Biotechnology (Hons), Flinders University of South Australia

 

Research Metrics

38 publications (8 first author, 3 senior author, 2 commentaries, 1 book chapter)

h-index 20, citations >1,600 (source Google Scholar)

 

Research Focus

Dr Byrne was awarded her PhD in 2012 for her research that discovered how a cytoskeletal protein (stathmin) promotes metastasis in the aggressive childhood cancer, neuroblastoma (Byrne et al. 2014, Oncogene). Dr Byrne then trained as a postdoc at the University of Virginia (USA) from 2012-2014 where she studied cancer cell metabolism and the pathophysiology of obesity-related cancers (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). She returned to Australia in 2014 to the School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences (UNSW), and now leads a team of students (PhD, honours, and undergraduates) and a research assistant, and has established strong national and international collaborations with other leading researchers, gynaecological oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, and medicinal chemists.

 

She has 3 major research interests:

Research Project 1: Developing new anti-cancer drugs that target cell metabolism

Dr Byrne performed a drug screen that identified a small molecule (BH10) that induces mitochondrial oxidative stress and has better cancer cell-specific toxicity than many chemotherapy agents (Byrne et al. 2020, Redox Biology). This research initiated a project which aims to develop new and improved BH10-like molecules in collaboration with medicinal chemist, Professor Naresh Kumar (Chemistry, UNSW). Dr Byrne is also working with Professor Kyle Hoehn and Continuum Biosciences/Life Biosciences to investigate the therapeutic potential of mitochondrial uncouplers in cancer.

Research Project 2: Investigating a new drug target for endometrial cancer

Cancer of the cells lining the uterus (endometrial cancer) is the most common gynaecological cancer in the Western world and the incidence of this cancer is on the rise in Australia and the US. Dr Byrne identified a new drug target for endometrial cancer, the glucose transporter GLUT6 (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). Her research was the first to show that GLUT6 plays an important role in endometrial cancer cells by regulating glucose metabolism and cell survival. Dr Byrne then developed and phenotyped the first GLUT6 knockout mouse and showed that loss of GLUT6 is not detrimental to mice (Byrne et al. 2018, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab). This research suggests that GLUT6 may be a good target for cancer therapy because loss of this protein may not affect healthy tissues. Future research on this project will investigate the impact of over-expressing GLUT6 in normal and cancerous endometrial cells, as this may provide clues as to how up-regulation of GLUT6 benefits the growth of endometrial cancers.

Research Project 3: Unravelling the links between diet, obesity, and cancer

Cancers of the liver and uterus (endometrium) are strongly linked to poor diet and obesity. Dr Byrne’s research has shown that endometrial cancers rely on glucose metabolism (glycolysis) to survive (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). This study and that of others were the focus of a recent review she co-authored (Byrne et al. 2020, Cancers). Dr Byrne and her team are now conducting multi-omic studies on patient samples from women with and without endometrial cancer. This includes a new area of research investigating the links between obesity, uterine microbiota, and endometrial cancer.

Dr Byrne also uses a carcinogen-induced mouse model of liver tumorigenesis to study how different diets and obesity influence the development of liver cancer. Dr Byrne's research has shown that feeding mice ketogenic diet does not alter the growth of established liver tumours (Byrne et al. 2018, Cancers). Her lab is currently investigating the links between dietary fructose and liver tumorigenesis in this model.

Contribution to Profession

Dr Byrne reviews fellowship applications (Hope Funds for Cancer Research), NHMRC grants, HDR student theses, and manuscripts for Cancer Research, IJMS, AJP Endocrinology & Metabolism, Scientific Reports, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Endocrine-Related Cancer, Journal of Pathology, Biomed Research International, Cellular Signalling, Cells, Cancers, etc. She also serves on the Honours Committee for BABS and helps organise and chair sessions at national conferences.

Teaching

Dr Byrne is an Associate Fellow of Advance Higher Education (AFHEA) and enjoys engaging with students through lectures, one-on-one supervision in her lab, the Talented Students Program (BABS), and at Careers Night run by BABSOC. She lectures in BABS3151 (topic: Cancer Genetics), BIOC3271/3671 (topic: Molecular Approaches to Cancer Cell Biology), BIOC3261 (topic: Cancer Metabolism), and co-convenes BABS2011 (Current Trends in Biotechnology). She supervises PhD, honours, and undergraduate students (SCIF2041/3041, BABS3301, BIOC3671) in BABS, and co-supervises honours/MPhil students in Chemistry. She also regularly co-supervises and mentors Independent Learning Project (ILP), honours, and PhD students in the School of Medicine. Dr Byrne has research projects suited to honours and PhD students in the 3 main areas of her research (listed above).  

Social Engagement & Equity

Co-chair of the Executive Committee for the Women in Research Network (WiRN) (2022-2023), Faculty of Science representative (2021-2023). Dr Byrne is passionate about wanting to ensure UNSW is a workplace where women (cis and trans) are treated fairly and have equal opportunities. She aims to promote this network to women that are new to UNSW, particularly ECRs and EMCRs, who might not feel that they have proper support and know what opportunities exist for them as they progress in their career.

Engagement with consumers. Dr Byrne recognizes the importance of communicating her cancer research with the wider community. She has developed strong relationships with consumers, including Mr Jeff Cuff whose sadly lost his wife colon cancer in 2013. In addition to his role as a research advocate, Jeff has also been an active member of Dr Byrne’s laboratory because he has a keen interest in scientific research (see Jeff's profile here). Jeff’s contributions led to co-authorship in Dr Byrne’s publication (Byrne et al, 2020 Redox Biology) and he continues to play an important role in guiding her research and helping her establish new collaborations with cancer researchers.


My Grants

Fellowships/Scholarships/Funding

Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellowship (2022-2024)

Researcher Exchange & Development within Industry (REDI) Fellowship (2021)

Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (2018-2021)

UNSW Career Advancement Fund (2019)

Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN) grant (2018)

Next Generation Sequencing Grant, UNSW (2018)

Conference and Professional Development Grant, TCRN (2017)

Early Career Researcher Grant, Faculty of Science, UNSW (2016)

Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017) (USA), Malcolm AS Moore Honorary Fellow

Anthony Rothe Memorial PhD Scholarship (2008-2011)

Louiza Zervos Memorial Scholarship in Paediatrics (2010)


My Qualifications

Bachelor of Biotechnology (Hons), Flinders University, South Australia

PhD, Paediatric Oncology, Children's Cancer Institute, New South Wales


My Awards

  • Paper of the Month for publication in Redox Biology, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW (2019)
  • Best oral presentation at AussieMit conference, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Perth, WA (2014)
  • Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation Travel Grant, AussieMit conference, Perth, WA (2014)
  • Paper of the Month for publication in Cancer Research, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW, Australia (2014)
  • Sydney Catalyst Prize for best cancer-related poster, Annual Garvan Signalling Symposium, Sydney, Australia (2014)
  • Jefferson Cup awarded for oral presentation at the UVA Postdoctoral Research Day, University of Virginia (USA) (2014)
  • Poster prize at the Inaugural UVA Postdoctoral Research Day, University of Virginia (USA) (2013)
  • University of Sydney Medal for Best Overall Presentation, ASMR Medical Research Week NSW Scientific Meeting (2011)

My Research Supervision


Supervision keywords


Areas of supervision

Developing new anti-cancer drugs that target the unique metabolism of cancer cells

Key reference:

Byrne, F. L., Olzomer, E. M., Marriott, G. R., Quek, L.-E., Katen, A., Su, J., Nelson, M. E., Hart-Smith, G., Larance, M., Sebesfi, V. F., Cuff, J., Martyn, G. E., Childress, E., Alexopoulos, S. J., Poon, I. K., Faux, M. C., Burgess, A. W., Reid, G., McCarroll, J. A., Santos, W. L., Quinlan, K. G. R., Turner, N., Fazakerley, D. J., Kumar, N., and Hoehn, K. L. (2020) Phenotypic screen for oxygen consumption rate identifies an anti-cancer naphthoquinone that induces mitochondrial oxidative stress, Redox Biology 28, 101374.

Determining the functional role of the glucose transporter, GLUT6, in cancer cell biology

Key references:

Byrne, F. L., Poon, I. K., Modesitt, S. C., Tomsig, J. L., Chow, J. D., Healy, M. E., Baker, W. D., Atkins, K. A., Lancaster, J. M., Marchion, D. C., Moley, K. H., Ravichandran, K. S., Slack-Davis, J. K., and Hoehn, K. L. (2014) Metabolic vulnerabilities in endometrial cancer, Cancer Res 74, 5832-5845.

Byrne, F. L., Olzomer, E. M., Brink, R., and Hoehn, K. L. (2018) Knockout of glucose transporter GLUT6 has minimal effects on whole body metabolic physiology in mice, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 315, E286-E293.

Caruana, B. T. and Byrne, F.L. (2020) The NF-κB signalling pathway regulates GLUT6 expression in endometrial cancer. Cellular Signalling, 73: p. 109688.

Investigating the role of dietary nutrients in the development of liver cancer

Key reference:

Byrne, F. L., Hargett, S. R., Lahiri, S., Roy, R. J., Berr, S. S., Caldwell, S. H., and Hoehn, K. L. (2018) Serial MRI Imaging Reveals Minimal Impact of Ketogenic Diet on Established Liver Tumor Growth, Cancers (Basel) 10.

 


Currently supervising

 

UNSW Scientia PhD Students

Riya Shrestha  (co-supervisor)

Sing-Young Chen  (co-supervisor)

Stephanie Alexopoulos  (co-supervisor)

UNSW School of Chemistry PhD Student

Yao Cheng (co-supervisor)

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Location

UNSW Level 4, D26 Biological Sciences Building
Kensington 2052
Australia

Contact

02 9065 1211

Research Activities

The Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN) – a translational cancer research program funded by the Cancer Institute NSW – comprises the founding institutions of the University of New South Wales, comprehensive cancer centres at Prince of Wales and St George hospitals, cancer services at the Royal Hospital for Women and the Sutherland Hospital, Border Medical Oncology and The University of Technology Sydney.

 

The…