PhD student Marija Dinevska presents at Lorne Cancer 2023

Third-year PhD student Marija Dinevska from the Department of Surgery at the Royal Melbourne Hospital presented her research at Lorne Cancer 2023, attended by more than 500 scientists from around the world. Marija’s presentation, Spatial analysis of the immune and ECM microenvironment in metastatic brain tumours, showcased her soon-to-be-published research on metastatic brain cancer, the most common malignancy affecting the central nervous system.

Marija Dnevska presents on stage in front of her project's title slide. The audience can be seen in the foreground. She is speaking from a lecturn, with a dark curtain as the background. PhD student Marija Dinevska from the Department of Surgery presents at Lorne Cancer 2023.

Using state-of-the-art spatial biology technology, Marija, together with PhD student Samuel Widodo, were able to map the tumour tissue architecture and organisation in detail, revealing where tumour-infiltrating immune cells traffic to, and showing how cancer cells alter their signals in response to their surrounding microenvironment. The research, undertaken in Associate Professor Theo Mantamadiotis’ laboratory, was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the Garvan Institute in Sydney.

A major feature of metastatic brain tumours was the presence of highly organised extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, mostly collagen, which compartmentalise the cancer cells and tumour infiltrating immune cells into distinct “neighbourhoods.” This  has implications on the function of all the cells in the tumour and how they respond to anti-cancer therapy.

Unlocking the mechanisms underpinning the organisation of metastatic brain tumours and how tumour-infiltrating immune cells are influenced by their microenvironment is a step towards developing better treatment for patients.