Samantha Oakes is Director, Research Investment, National Breast Cancer Foundation
Responsible for Strategic Leadership for Breast Cancer Research in Australia.
Associate Professor Oakes is an experienced breast cancer researcher and an expert in normal mammary gland biology and carcinogenesis, cell survival, immune-oncology, cancer therapeutics, apoptosis and tumour cell invasion and Associate Professor technical expertise includes normal in vivo mammary gland biology including animal husbandry, mammary transplants, mammary cell fractionation, mouse tumour modelling, mammary and cancer cell apoptosis, RNA extraction and reverse transcription, PCR and quantitative PCR, protein extraction, western blotting, immune-precipitation, cell culture, immuno-histochemistry, microscopy, cloning, manuscript preparation, editorial correspondence and active collaborator across disciplines.
- 2017-2018Cancer Council NSW Project Grant Total Funding: $446,751.81
- 2017Mostyn Family Foundation Total Funding: $25,000
- 2016Young Garvan Edgy Ideas Award Total Funding: $25,000
- 2016Mostyn Family Foundation Total Funding: $25,000
- 2014-2018NHMRC Project GrantTotal Funding: $1,222,590.00
- 2013-2016NBCF Early Career FellowshipTotal Funding: $619,945.00
- 2013NHMRC Project Grant Total Funding: $423,806.18
- 2008-2012NHMRC Peter Doherty Australian-based Biomedical Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. Total Funding: $355,766
- 2008-2012NBCF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. Total Funding $80,000
- 2008Victorian Cancer Agency Career Bench to Bedside Collaboration Award. Total Funding: $10,000
- 2003-2006NHMRC Dora LushPre-doctoral Research Scholarship. Total Funding: $71,625
- B.Sc. (Hons1)1994-1999 University of New South Wales, Australia (Anatomy)
- PhD (Medical Research)2003-2007 University of New South Wales (Garvan Institute of Medical Research), Australia.
- 2016Young Garvan Awardfor the best Edgy Idea
- 2015 National Breast Cancer Foundation Spirit of Giving Awards ‘Excellence in Science Communication Award’ Awarded by Jackie Coles, Acting CEO, National Breast Cancer Foundation.
- 2007Garvan Institute Thesis Prize, Sydney, Australia.
- 2012The University of Sydney Medal for Excellence in Medical Research for the Best Overall Presentation NSW Scientific Meeting, Sydney, Australia.
- 2012 National Breast Cancer Foundation Patron’s Award for ‘Excellence in Science and Science Communication Award’ Awarded by the Governor General of Australia Ms. Quentin Bryce and Sarah Murdoch (Patron of the National Breast Cancer Foundation)
- 2008Outstanding Oral Presentation2008 Prolactin and Growth Hormone Gordon Research Conference, Ventura, California, USA.
- 2007The Eli Lilly Award for the Best Student Oral Presentation, NSW ASMR Scientific Meeting, Sydney, Australia.
- 2006 The Cancer Institute Award for Excellence in Student OralPresentation. 16th St Vincent’s and Mater Health Sydney Research Symposium, Sydney, Australia.
My Research Activities
My research focus was to understand how cancer cells learn how to survive in the body. Inappropriate survival can be intrinsically linked to every stage of tumour progression, from the initiating event and growth, its invasion through surrounding tissues, dissemination to distant organs and to the acquisition of therapeutic resistance. An understanding of these processes allows us to discover new therapeutic strategies capable of re-educating cancer cells to die. Although my model systems have been predominantly in breast cancer, I have translated these discoveries to cancers arising in other organs; particularly those with poorer survival outcomes, such as pancreatic cancer. It has been my ultimate goal to translate my discoveries into new treatments and improved clinical outcomes for patients suffering the most lethal forms of breast and other malignancies.
I am an expert in mammary development (Oakes et al 2008, Genes and Dev; Oakes et al 2008 J of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia; Oakes et al 2017 PloS Genetics), carcinogenesis (Oakes et al 2007 Oncogene; O’Toole et al 2013, J. Clinical Pathology) and cancer cell survival (Oakes et al 2012, PNAS; Young et al 2016, Breast Cancer Research; Young et al 2018 Cell Adhesion and Migration, Alexandrou et al 2019).
I have made two major discoveries that have made significant impacts on health and medicine. The first, as post-doctoral scientist at WEHI, where I showed that the BCL-2 antagonist ABT-737 could be used to sensitize triple negative breast cancer cells to routine chemotherapy (Oakes 2012, PNAS). ABT-737 is the lead compound that eventually led to the development of the Australian TGA approved drug Venetoclax and as a result of this research, Venetoclax is now under investigation in clinical trials in multiple cancers including breast cancer. In trials in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer led by my previous lab head, the clinical benefit rate was 72%.
My second major discovery as senior author defined a new role for the pro-survival protein myeloid cell leukaemia 1 (MCL-1), as a regulator of SRC family kinase signalling during invasion. My laboratory showed that that targeting MCL-1 could increase sensitivity of triple negative breast cancers to SRC family kinase inhibitors (Young 2017 BCR; Young 2017 Cell Adhesion and Migration, PCT/AU2017/05132). This discovery led us to search for other cancers that may rely on MCL-1 for survival. We have now discovered high MCL-1 is a strong predictor of worse outcome for up to 75% of all pancreatic adenocarcinoma patients and that MCL-1 antagonism significantly improved the anti-invasive effects of dasatinib. With an incidence to mortality ratio of 94%, and highly potent and specific inhibitors of MCL-1 now in P1 clinical trials, this research has the potential to have a significant and rapid impact in pancreatic cancer.
- 2019 Invited Speaker Olivia Newton John Cancer Research Institute, Melbourne, Australia
- 2019 Invited Speaker Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC), Peter Mac, Melbourne, Australia
- 2019 Invited Flash Talk, 2019 Breast and Prostate Pacrim Meeting, Barossa Valley, SA, Australia
- 2018 Invited Speaker Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
- 2018 Invited Speaker Health Informatics Conference, Wellington, New Zealand, November
- 2018 Invited Speaker Combio, Sydney, Australia, September
- 2017 Invited Talk, Queenstown Research Week Cell Signaling Symposium, Queenstown, New Zealand
- 2017 Invited Plenary St. Vincent’s Precinct Post-doctoral Symposium, Sydney
- 2017 Invited Talk, ASMR NSW Scientific Meeting
- 2016 Hanson Institute, University of Adelaide. Australia
- 2015 Invited Talk, Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting, New Zealand
- 2014 Invited Talk, Australian Society of Medical Research NSW Scientific Meeting, Australia
- 2012 Invited Talk, Australian Society of Medical Research NSW Scientific Meeting, Australia
- 2012 Invited Talk, National Breast Cancer Foundation Fellows Symposium, Sydney International Breast Cancer Conference
- 2010 Invited Talk, Victorian Breast Cancer Research Symposium, Victoria, Australia
- 2008 Invited Talk, Gordon Mammary Gland Conference, Prolactin and Growth Hormone, Ventura, USA
- 2007 Invited Talk, Queenstown Molecular Biology Meeting, New Zealand
Community Engagement/Participation (last 5 years only
- 2019 Invited Speaker Australian Maronite Community Network, Parramatta, NSW.
- 2018 Invited Speaker Pathfinders Awards: The Science of Innovation, Tesla HQ Sydney Sept.
- 2017 Vodafone DreamLab Scientific Ambassador (several tours and events and launch in October)
- 2017 Featured Researcher, Cue Clothing Company, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October
- 2017 Master of Ceremonies, 2nd Annual Young Garvan Edgy Ideas Awards Evening
- 2017 Guest Speaker, Riley Street Garage, Breast Cancer Luncheon
- 2017 Guest Speaker, ASMR Dinner with a Scientist, Medical Research Week Sydney
- 2016 Invited Speaker Pint of Science 23 May Sydney Australia
- 2015 Ambassador and media spokesperson for Vodafone Foundation and Garvan Institute of Medical Research ‘DreamLab’ launch. Typing ‘DreamLab’ and ‘Samantha Oakes’ into Google returns 1980 results in National and International Media that have appeared since its launch in November 2015.
- 2015 Guest Speaker at the National Breast Cancer Foundation Pink Ribbon Breakfast Launch.
- 2014 Featured researcher in the 2013 Garvan Institute “A Year in Review” documentary screened at the Garvan Institute AGM and at several donor functions.
- 2014 (March) Featured National Breast Cancer Foundation funded breast cancer researcher in ‘Shades of Pink” a documentary commissioned by the National Breast Cancer Foundation to illustrate the diversity of breast cancer and screened on Network 10.
- 2013 (May) Featured National Breast Cancer Foundation funded Breast cancer researcher in the May edition of the Australian Women’s Weekly
- 2012 19th December Invited speaker and research representative for the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Darlinghurst, Australia. Walking tour to Her Excellency the Governor General of Australia Ms Quentin Bryce and Mr Michael Bryce. Talk entitled: Overcoming the challenges in finding treatments for triple negative breast cancer.
- 2012 3rd July Invited speaker and research representative for the National Breast Cancer Foundation at the Cherrybrook Pink Ribbon Breakfast. Talk entitled: Overcoming the challenges in finding treatments for triple negative breast cancer.
- 2012 12th February Invited speaker and research representative for the National Breast Cancer Foundation for the National Breast Cancer Foundation board member tour. Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Darlinghurst, Australia.