Professor Joseph Trapani received his medical degree in 1977 and completed physician training (FRACP) in rheumatology in 1985.
Professor Joseph Trapani received his medical degree in 1977 and completed physician training (FRACP) in rheumatology in 1985. His Phd (The University of Melbourne, 1986) was on the immunogenetics of HLA-associated disease, particularly B27-related arthropathy.
Professor Trapani first became interested in how the immune system defends the body against viruses and cancer while working as a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, New York, where he worked in Bo Dupont’s lab. Here, Professor Trapani discovered and characterised a number of the genes and protein used by killer lymphocytes to eliminate virus-infected cell’s. He found that one protein (perforin) forms pores in the target cell surface and provides access for proteases (granzymes) to enter and trigger cell death via various programmed cell death pathways.
With his colleagues, Professor Trapani has since devised novel ways of harnessing the power of these killer lymphocytes (CART cell therapy) and adapted their use to adoptive immunotherapy for various cancers.
In the late 1990s, Professor Trapani undertook a number of seminal studies showing that focal defects in the immune system of mice resulted in a remarkable susceptibility to cancer, particular B cell lymphoma. This work is regarded as among the first incontrovertible evidence in support of Burnet’s hypothesis of ‘cancer immune surveillance’ first postulated in the 1950’s. Trapani’s lab has also identified a rare group of children with inherited defects of perforin function and shown that they are also abnormally susceptible to leukaemia.
In 2012, Professor Trapani received a$12.3 million award from the Welcome Trust (UK) to lead a consortium of Australian and New Zealand research teams, aiming to develop a new class of immune-suppressive drugs that protect transplanted bone marrow stem cells against immune destruction dedicated by the pore-forming protein, perforin. The work is now approaching clinical development.
Professor Trapani is Executive Director Cancer Research at Peter Mac, Head of the Cancer Immunology Program and Head of the Cancer Cell Death Laboratory. Professor Trapani’s research interests include the immunopathology of viral and auto-immune diseases, apoptosis induction by cytotoxic lymphocytes and cancer immunotherapy.
He has authored more than 310 research papers, reviews and book chapters on these topics and his work is cited > 22,000 times.
Professor Trapani is also a member of the Executive (Board) of Cancer Council Victoria, Chair of CCV’s Medical and Scientific Committee and a member of many peer-review and advisory bodies in academia and industry.