Prof Joseph Trapani

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Scientific Advisory Committee Member

Prof Joseph Trapani

Scientific Advisory Committee Member

Prof Joseph Trapani


Profile

MBBS, FRACP, PhD, FFSc (RCPA), FAHMS, FAA


Professor Joe Trapani is Head of the Cancer Immunology Program at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Melbourne, and until recently was Peter Mac’s Executive Director Cancer Research (2009-2018) and Inaugural Head of the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology at The University of Melbourne (2012-18). In 2018, he was appointed Director of the new Centre for Cancer Immunotherapy for Peter Mac and the VCCC partners.

Joe’s research interests include the immunopathology of viral and auto-immune diseases, apoptosis induction by cytotoxic lymphocytes and cancer immunotherapy. He has authored > 350 research papers, reviews and book chapters (>30K cites, H-index 91). Joe Trapani was a member of the Executive (Board) of the Cancer Council Victoria (2007-2020) and Chaired its Medical and Scientific Committee (2013-2020). He now participates in many other peer-review bodies for State and Federal governments, and in academia and industry, nationally and internationally.

Joe Trapani received his medical degree in 1977 and his PhD in 1985 from UoM. He completed physician training in rheumatology (FRACP 1985) and received his PhD in the immunogenetics of B27-related arthropathy.

Joe became interested in how the immune system defends against viruses and cancer while a post-doc at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, New York. Here, he discovered a number of the genes and proteins used by killer lymphocytes to eliminate virus-infected cells. He found that one protein (perforin) forms pores in the target cell and provides access for other proteins (granzymes) to enter and trigger cell death by apoptosis. Joe’s subsequent work provided strong evidence in support of Burnet’s controversial but crucial hypothesis of ‘cancer immune surveillance’.

With his colleagues, Professor Trapani has since 1995 been devising CAR T therapy – using gene engineering approaches to harness the power of killer lymphocytes as adoptive immunotherapy for various cancers. Joe’s team has further identified a rare group of children with inherited defects of perforin and shown that they more frequently develop leukaemia.

For his lifetime achievement and contributions to science, Joe Trapani has been inducted into two learned societies: FAHMS (2015) and FAA (2018).