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Professor of Paediatric Cancer Research & Program Head, Cancer

Professor Johns will commence fulltime at Telethon Kids in the second half of 2017 as the Head of the Telethon Kids Cancer Centre.  He is currently working with members of the Centre in developing new funding opportunities.

After completing a PhD in 1993 at Monash University in the Department of Biochemistry, Professor Terrance Johns joined La Trobe University’s Neuroimmunology Laboratory as a Postdoctoral Fellow. During his time there, he helped develop a new model of multiple sclerosis that remains in use around the world today.

In 1998, Professor Johns commenced as a Research Fellow at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and went on to establish the Oncogenic Signalling Laboratory. The main focus of this laboratory was the development of antibodies that target receptors on the surface of cancer cells important to their survival and growth. In particular, Professor Johns was a key leader in the development of mAb 806 (now known as ABT-414), a novel antibody that is directed to the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and is currently in late stage clinical trials.

Professor Johns brought his oncogenic signalling research to Hudson Institute of Medical Research in March 2008. He continues to develop novel antibodies designed to treat cancer, with a focus on glioma (brain cancer). Specially, his laboratory analyses the key signalling pathways associated with the growth of glioma, to guide the development of new therapeutic antibodies. In addition, he partners with a number of pharmaceutical companies to help develop new drugs for the treatment of glioma.

With an established track record in translational research, Professor Johns has had key roles in many clinical trials, including the CABARET trial for patients with recurrent high-grade glioma. In recent years, he has received funding from some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical and biotech companies, including Pfizer, Roche and Amgen, for preclinical and clinical testing of drug candidates.

In 2012, he founded the Brain Cancer Discovery Collaborative, an Australia-wide consortium of researchers and clinicians dedicated to ensuring that promising therapeutic discoveries are translated into the clinic for the treatment of patients with brain cancer.

Recently, he extended his expertise in cancer therapy to developing new treatments for ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition in which the fetus is implanted outside the uterus.

His recent achievements and current research interests include the following:

  • developing cancer-specific antibodies that recognise key receptor tyrosine kinases that drive cancer, such as EGFR and c-Met
  • understanding the biology and intracellular signalling properties of EGFR mutations and other receptor tyrosine kinases in high-grade glioma
  • identifying mechanisms of resistance to EGFR-targeted therapies
  • designing strategies for overcoming resistance, such as dual targeting of EGFR
  • evaluating CT179, a new drug that targets OLIG2, a protein that has a central role in many brain cancers
  • developing new treatments for ependymoma, a rare childhood brain cancer.