Jodi is a multidisciplinary researcher in the Molecular Breast Pathology Group. She has an Honours degree in biochemistry and biomedical science, and a PhD in breast cancer molecular genetics, and has conducted post-doctoral research in immunology, cancer heterogeneity, molecular pathology and molecular/cellular cancer biology.

Research interests

Jodi’s research focuses on identifying new ways to improve the management of breast cancer patients with brain metastases. This multidisciplinary program of work involves identifying molecular mechanisms underlying the outgrowth of breast cancer cells in the brain, some of which may be new drug targets, or represent opportunities for drug repositioning. This requires the use of experimental models of metastatic brain tumour development and high-resolution molecular profiling of human brain metastases. She is also helping to drive a new bioimaging initiative through the RBWH and Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF), involving testing of a new theranostic for brain metastases from HER2+ breast cancer.

Another major area of interest is the identification of new prognostic and predictive breast cancer biomarkers; particularly for triple-negative breast cancer, which is characterised by marked inter- and intratumoural heterogeneity, exhibits variable clinical behaviour and for which there is an urgent need for new molecular-targeted therapies. Jodi works with the MBP group’s archival tumour sample cohorts to identify relationships between the expression of candidate genes/proteins, clinicopathologic features and clinical outcomes, as well as patterns of metastasis.

Community interests

Jodi is a keen advocate for raising awareness about stage IV breast cancer, and regularly speaks at community events to share information about current research in the MBP group and the medical research community generally.

Funding acknowledgement

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
Cancer Council Queensland
The University of Queensland

Students

Korinne Northwood (MBBS/PhD)
Malcolm Lim (Hons)

Researcher biography

Dr Jodi Saunus is a Senior Fellow and Brain Metastasis Program Leader at the UQ Centre for Clinical Research, Royal Brisbane & Women's Hospital Campus in Herston. She has an honours degree in biochemistry and biomedical science, a PhD (UQ, 2006) in breast cancer molecular genetics, and post-doctoral experience in immunology, molecular cell biology and molecular pathology. She has published in prominent medical research journals including Cancer Research, Nature, Nature Communications and The Journal of Pathology, and with a fantastic group of mentors and collaborators, secured more than $2.5M in competitive research funding in the last 5 years alone.

Her research portfolio is centred on finding new ways to improve the clinical management of aggressive breast cancer, with a focus on metastatic brain disease. This multidisciplinary program involves identifying mechanisms that facilitate the outgrowth of cancer cells in the brain using experimental models of brain metastasis, as well as molecular profiling of human clinical samples to identify features that correlate with treatment response and survival. She also coordinates the 'BoNSAI' study, a clinical PET/MR imaging trial run through the Herston Imaging Research Facility (HIRF), which aims to measure physiologic factors (intratumoural pressure, vascular permeability and fluid flow dynamics) that influence how therapeutics are taken up into brain tumours.

In terms of strategic and administrative roles, she oversees operational aspects of the Brisbane Breast Bank, is a member of the kConFab biospecimens and UQCCR Industry & Commercialisation committees, mentors/supervises two junior postdoctoral scientists and two PhD students. She is a strong proponent for consumer engagement in research, and regularly addresses community groups about breast cancer research at the UQCCR and beyond.