Bachelor of Biotechnology (Hons), Flinders University, South Australia
PhD, Paediatric Oncology, Children's Cancer Institute, New South Wales
Professional Awards and Experience
Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellow (UNSW) 2022-2024
Associate Fellow (AFHEA) Advance Higher Education 2021
Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) Fellow 2021
Bridge Program participant 2020
Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellow (UNSW) 2018-2021
Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellow (UVA/UNSW) 2014-2017
Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Virginia (USA) 2012-2014
Anthony Rothe Memorial Trust PhD Scholar, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW) 2008-2012
Research Assistant, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW) 2005-2008
Methods Development Scientist, GroPep Bioreagents (Adelaide) 2003-2005
Bachelor of Biotechnology (Hons), Flinders University of South Australia 1999-2002
Dr Byrne was awarded her PhD in 2012 for her research that discovered how a cytoskeletal protein (stathmin) promotes metastasis in the aggressive childhood cancer, neuroblastoma (Byrne et al. 2014, Oncogene). Dr Byrne then trained as a postdoc at the University of Virginia (USA) from 2012-2014 where she studied cancer cell metabolism and the pathophysiology of obesity-related cancers (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). She returned to Australia in 2014 to the School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences (UNSW), and now leads a team of students (PhD, honours, and undergraduates) and a research assistant, and has established strong national and international collaborations with other leading researchers, gynaecological oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, and medicinal chemists.
She has 2 major research interests:
Research Focus 1: Developing new anti-cancer drugs that target cancer cell metabolism
Dr Byrne performed a drug screen that identified a small molecule (BH10) that induces mitochondrial oxidative stress and has better cancer cell-specific toxicity than many chemotherapy agents (Byrne et al. 2020, Redox Biology). This research initiated a project which aims to develop new and improved BH10-like molecules in collaboration with medicinal chemist, Professor Naresh Kumar (Chemistry, UNSW). Dr Byrne is also working with Professor Kyle Hoehn and Continuum Biosciences/Life Biosciences to investigate the therapeutic potential of mitochondrial uncouplers in cancer.
Research Focus 2: Unravelling the links between diet, obesity, and cancer
Cancers of the liver and uterus (endometrium) are strongly linked to poor diet and obesity. Dr Byrne’s research has shown that endometrial cancers rely on glucose metabolism (glycolysis) to survive (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). This study and that of others were the focus of a recent review she co-authored (Byrne et al. 2020, Cancers). Dr Byrne and her team are now conducting multi ‘omic’ studies on patient samples from lean and obese women with and without endometrial cancer. This includes research investigating the links between obesity, uterine microbiota, and endometrial cancer which was recently published (Kaakoush et al. 2022, Cancers).
Dr Byrne also uses mouse models to study how different diets and obesity influence the development of liver cancer. Dr Byrne's research has shown that feeding mice ketogenic diet does not alter the growth of established liver tumours (Byrne et al. 2018, Cancers). Her lab is currently investigating the links between dietary fructose and liver tumorigenesis in mice.
Contribution to Profession
Dr Byrne reviews fellowship applications (Hope Funds for Cancer Research), NHMRC grants, HDR student theses, and manuscripts for Cancer Research, Cellular & Molecular Life Sciences, Cancers, AJP Endocrinology & Metabolism, Scientific Reports, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Endocrine-Related Cancer, Journal of Pathology, Biomed Research International, Cellular Signalling, Cells, etc. She also serves on the Honours Committee for BABS and helps organise and chair sessions for national conferences. Dr Byrne is also the UNSW representative on the steering committee for the Bridge Program.
Dr Byrne is an Associate Fellow of Advance Higher Education (AFHEA) and enjoys engaging with students through lectures, one-on-one supervision in her lab, the Talented Students Program (BABS), and at Careers Night run by BABSOC. She lectures in BABS3151 (topic: Cancer Genetics), BIOC3271/3671 (topic: Molecular Approaches to Cancer Cell Biology, Human Cytoskeleton and Disease), BIOC3261 (topic: Cancer Metabolism), and co-convenes BABS2011 (Current Trends in Biotechnology). She also lectures and leads practicals in the School of Medicine (MFAC1525: Ageing and Endings). She supervises PhD, honours, and undergraduate students in BABS, and co-supervises honours/MPhil students in Chemistry. She also regularly co-supervises and mentors Independent Learning Project (ILP), honours, and PhD students in the School of Medicine. Dr Byrne has research projects suited to honours and PhD students.
Social Engagement & Equity
Co-chair of the Executive Committee for the Women in Research Network (WiRN) (2022-2023), Faculty of Science representative (2021-2023). The WiRN aims to support, inform, and advocate for women at UNSW. Dr Byrne is passionate about wanting to ensure UNSW is a workplace where women (cis and trans) are treated fairly and have equal opportunities.
Engagement with consumers. Dr Byrne recognizes the importance of communicating her cancer research with the wider community. She has developed strong relationships with consumers, including Mr Jeff Cuff whose sadly lost his wife colon cancer in 2013. In addition to his role as a research advocate, Jeff has also been an active member of Dr Byrne’s laboratory because he has a keen interest in scientific research (see Jeff's profile here). Jeff’s contributions led to co-authorship in Dr Byrne’s publication (Byrne et al, 2020 Redox Biology) and he continues to play an important role in guiding her research and helping her establish new collaborations with cancer researchers.
Cancer Institute NSW Career Development Fellowship (2022-2024)
Researcher Exchange & Development within Industry (REDI) Fellowship (2021)
Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (2018-2021)
UNSW Career Advancement Fund (2019)
Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN) grant (2018)
Next Generation Sequencing Grant, UNSW (2018)
Conference and Professional Development Grant, TCRN (2017)
Early Career Researcher Grant, Faculty of Science, UNSW (2016)
Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017) (USA), Malcolm AS Moore Honorary Fellow
Anthony Rothe Memorial PhD Scholarship (2008-2011)
Louiza Zervos Memorial Scholarship in Paediatrics (2010)