Professor Colleen Nelson

BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, PhD Cell Biology

Executive Director, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre - Queensland; Professor and Chair, Prostate Cancer Research, IHBI, QUT


About me

Professor Colleen Nelson is the Founder and Executive Director of the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre - Queensland (APCRC-Q) and Chair of Prostate Cancer Research at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).  The Centre, based at the Translational Research Institute and the Princess Alexandra Hospital, spans the spectrum of discovery of new therapeutic targets and their preclinical and clinical development.

Prof Nelson’s expertise is in translational prostate cancer research, specifically in identification of potential therapeutic targets, their in vitro and in vivo validation, clinical validation through molecular pathology approaches, and their translation into potential clinical application. These outcomes are derived from her expertise in high throughput applications in microarray gene expression, gene regulation, animal models, prostate cancer, steroid hormones, molecular endocrinology, and targeted therapeutics.

Prof Nelson has long studied androgen action and the effects of androgen deprivation and progression to castrate resistant prostate cancer.  Her laboratory made the seminal discovery that castrate resistant prostate tumours can synthesize their own androgens de novo from cholesterol.  Recently, these findings have been extended to investigate the inter-relationships of androgen synthesis, prostate cancer progression, and metabolic syndrome.

Prof Nelson is also Director of the Australian-Canadian Prostate Cancer Research Alliance, an initiative developed to coordinate national and international network interactions of over 280 prostate cancer scientists and clinicians in Australia and Canada. The Alliance facilitates access to state-of-the-art infrastructure and clinical trials and assists in the translation of a wide range of discoveries in both countries. Since arriving in Australia in 2007, Prof Nelson has been awarded more than $29 million in research grants, including the prestigious Queensland Government Smart Futures Premier’s Fellowship in 2009.

Prof Nelson is Chair of the Translational Research Institute (TRI) Research Committee and a member of the TRI Caucus.  She has also been appointed the Prostate Cancer Stream Leader within Diamantina Health Partners’ Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

Prior to her appointment in Australia, Prof Nelson was a founding scientist of the Vancouver Prostate Centre, a National Centre of Excellence in Research and Commercialization. Over the past decade she has worked in close collaboration with Dr Martin Gleave, Director of the Vancouver Prostate Centre.  During that period, Prof Nelson was awarded research grants in excess of $100 million from most of the key biomedical funding agencies and industry in North America for peer-reviewed operating funds and establishment of state-of-the-art research facilities.

Intellectual property from Prof Nelson’s research has been licensed from University of British Columbia to OncoGenex Pharmaceuticals, a Vancouver-based biotechnology company. The lead agents are now in Phase II and Phase III clinical trials in North America. Prof Nelson has been on a number of Strategic and Scientific Advisory Boards and was the inaugural Director of the Microarray Platform for Genome Canada from 2000 to 2009.

In 2010, Prof Nelson was appointed to the Movember Foundation’s Board of Directors and serves as the Chair of Movember’s Global Scientific Committee. This committee leads Movember’s Global Action Plan initiative to accelerate key outcomes in prostate cancer research by facilitating global research collaboration projects.

Prof Nelson has been the Chair of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Research Initiative and now serves as an International Strategic Advisor for Prostate Cancer Canada.  Since arriving in Australia, she has joined the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Australia New Zealand Urogenital Prostate Clinical Trials Group and chairs the Correlative and Translational Research Subcommittee.

Prof Nelson works closely with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. She has been a co-organiser of their international conferences and assists in their fund raising activities. She is passionate about prostate cancer advocacy and regularly disseminates information to community organisations, including prostate cancer support groups.

Prof Nelson has played a key role in helping to establish the first multi-disciplinary team (MDT) clinic for advanced prostate cancer in Australia – the linked MDT Prostate Cancer Trials Unit.


  • Wang Q, Tiffen J, Bailey CG, Lehman ML, Ritchie W, Fazli L, Metierre C, Feng Y, Li E, Gleave M, Buchanan G, Nelson CC, Rasko JEJ and Holst J. Targeting Amino Acid Transport in Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer Suppresses Cell Cycle, Cell Growth and Tumor Development. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Oct 2;105(19):1463-1473. Epub 2013 Sep 19.
  • Wang Q, Bailey CG, Ng C, Tiffen J, Thoeng A, Minhas V, Lehman ML, Hendy SC, Buchanan G, Nelson CC, Rasko JEJ, Holst J. Androgen receptor and nutrient signalling pathways coordinate the demand for increased amino acid transport in prostate cancer progression. Cancer Research. Published Online. 2011; 17, CAN-11-1821R
  • Lubik AA, Gunter JH, Hendy SC, Locke JA, Adomat HA, Thompson V, Herington A, Gleave ME, Pollak M, Nelson CC. Insulin increases steroidogenesis in LNCaP prostate cancer cells.  Cancer Research. 2011; 71:5754-64.
  • Lai J, Lehman M, Hendy S, Mattick J, Clements JA. Nelson CC. A Variant of the KLK4 Gene is expressed as a Cis Sense-Antisense Chimeric Transcript in Prostate Cancer Cells. RNA. RNA. 2010; 16(6):1156-66 PMID: 20406994
  • Locke JA, Tomlinson Guns ES, Lehman ML, Ettinger S, Zoubedi A, Lubik A, Margiotti K, Fazli L, Adomat HA, Wasan KM, Gleave ME, Nelson CC. Arachidonic acid activation of intratumoral steroid synthesis during prostate cancer progression to castration-resistance. Prostate. 2009; 70(3):239-51. PMID: 19790237]
  • Locke JA, Guns ES, Lubik AA, Adomat HH, Hendy SC, Wood CA, Ettinger SL, Gleave ME, Nelson CC.  Androgen Levels Increase by Intratumoral de novo Steroidogenesis during Progression of Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer.  Cancer Research. 2008; 1:68(15):6407-15. IF 7.672
  • Zoubeidi A, Zardan A, Beraldi E, Fazli L, Sowery R, Rennie P, Nelson C, Gleave M.  Cooperative interactions between androgen receptor (AR) and heat-shock protein 27 facilitate AR transcriptional activity.  Cancer Research. 2007; 67(21):10455-65.  IF 7.672

More publications are available on PubMed

Research fields

Gene regulation, animal models, prostate cancer, steroid hormones, molecular endocrinology, high-throughput gene expression, and targeted therapeutics, androgen action and the effects of androgen deprivation