Publish Date: 
Wednesday, April 17, 2024 - 14:15

Combining technology and new skills to unlock cancer’s cellular secrets

TRI-based researcher Dr Arutha Kulasinghe is combining cancer biology, high-speed imaging, advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence processing power to better understand cancer at a cellular level.

It all comes under the theme of spatial biology.

Dr Kulasinghe’s work for The University of Queensland’s Frazer Institute involves studying
cells as they are naturally found in organs, to understand how they interact with surrounding
cells and what influence they have on the host tissue.

His background is in lung and head and neck cancer, spanning liquid biopsy, tissue
profiling and predictive biomarkers for immunotherapy.

In collaboration with clinicians and industry partners, Dr Kulasinghe is advancing his
research as one of the leaders of the new Queensland Spatial Biology Centre at the Wesley
Research Institute. The centre aims to unlock the secrets of individual cell interactions and guide personalised treatments for cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

Dr Kulasinghe says an important skill in establishing the centre, with The University of Queensland, St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital and Prince Charles Hospital clinician Professor John Fraser (pictured right), has been effective communication.

He was part of TRI’s Translation Pathways Program, one of the institute’s flagship educational offerings. Working in partnership with Bright Arena and CSIRO’s ON Program, TRI offers training workshops, Translation Fellowships and ad hoc coaching.

With impact at its core, the program helps researchers identify and develop their value propositions and supports new collaborations and increased access to non-traditional funding sources. TRI’s goal is to foster research impact and ultimately to fast-track the journey from discovery to bedside.

“The TRI Translational Pathways Program helped in refining my pitch and how I communicate with stakeholders in the biotech space and in industry, as well as with donors,” Dr Kulasinghe says.

“This enabled me to work closely with clinician scientists across Brisbane and establish the Queensland Spatial Biology Centre.”

The centre involves Dr Kulasinghe collaborating with medical research institutes from around Australia – and other parts of the word, with spatial biology industry partners and with patients including lung cancer survivor and advocate Michel Itel.

“We have a truly transformative technology because it allows us to understand every patient’s tumour specifically. What it’s allowing us to do is potentially identify the right therapy for the right patient.

“It provides us unprecedented details about complex diseases and enables us to understand the interplay between cells.

“We are seeing the biology for what it is. It’s amazing – and it has the potential to create a brighter and healthier future for people with cancer, heart disease and lung disease.”