Professor Peter Leedman, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, FAHMS
Director of Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research
Laboratory Head, Laboratory for Cancer Medicine
Professor Peter Leedman completed medicine at The University of Western Australia (UWA), then trained in endocrinology at Royal Melbourne Hospital in the mid-1980s. He completed his PhD at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne with Len Harrison on autoimmune thyroid disease from 1987-1991. From 1991-1994 he was a Lucille P Markey Fellow with Bill Chin, a Howard Hughes Investigator in the Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women’s hospital, Harvard Medical School in Boston where he worked on the molecular mechanisms of thyroid hormone action. He returned to Perth in 1994 as a Senior Lecturer in Medicine at UWA and became a Professor in 2003. Professor Leedman is Director of the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, an endocrinologist, Head of the Laboratory for Cancer Medicine and Chairman of Linear Clinical Research Ltd, a state-of-the-art 32-bed early phase clinical trials facility, which is a wholly owned subsiduary of the Perkins.
He has had a long-term interest in understanding how hormones act at the molecular level, with a focus on RNA biology and interactions between RNA and proteins, and how this information can be harnessed to personalise cancer therapy. His laboratory has focused on the mechanisms regulating expression of key therapeutic targets in hormone-dependent cancers (breast and prostate cancer) and more recently in poor prognostic tumours, including liver, head and neck cancer as well as advanced melanoma. His team has identified key functional roles for a number of small RNAs, called microRNAs, in these tumours and uncovered several new members of a complex network of RNA-biding nuclear receptor hormone coregulators. His laboratory has focused on applying advances in understanding these molecular mechanisms to the development of novel therapeutics. His published research shows that microRNA-7 can knock-out an essential growth receptor for cancer, known as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), as well as its associated signalling pathways that promote cancer development. The EGFR is a major target for therapy in liver cancer, because it is often associated with disease progression, resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Recent studies have shown that microRNA-7 is a potent inhibitor of the EGFR and resultant growth in liver cancer. The team’s findings have led to the establishment of miReven, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing microRNA-7 into a new treatment for liver cancer.