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Research Overview

Our genome is an instruction manual that guides biological activity. When our genetic code is disrupted this can have serious health consequences. To maintain healthy DNA our cells have evolved specific mechanisms to protect the genome. This includes arranging the DNA into proper chromosomal structures, ensuring the DNA is accurately replicated each time the cell divides, scanning DNA for damage, and when necessary promoting DNA repair. If these functions are compromised the genome can become damaged. Cells with unstable genomes often choose to die to prevent potential negative consequences. However, if cells with unhealthy DNA continue to proliferate, this may promote cancer. Because cancers often display damaged or unstable genomes, this presents a therapeutic opportunity to specifically target and kill tumour cells.

We are specifically interested in understanding:

  1. How the ends of chromosomes, called “telomeres”, contribute to maintaining DNA health.
  2. How cells ensure the DNA is accurately replicated during the cell division process.
  3. How embryonic stem cells cope with the extraordinary demands on genome health during early development.
  4. How we can kill cancer cells by targeting unstable genomes.

Lab Head


Tony Cesare

Head, Genome Integrity Unit
Available for Student Supervision

Professor Anthony (Tony) Cesare is Head of the Genome Integrity Unit at CMRI.

View full bio

Team Members

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Aisling O’Connor
Research Officer
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David Van Ly
Research officer/Medical Doctor
Kate Giles
Kate Giles
Research Officer
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Radek Szmyd
Research Officer
Scott G Page
Scott G. Page
Research Assistant
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Sienna Casolin
Research Assistant
Hannah Loh w
Hannah Loh
Honours Student
Lucy French
Lucy French
Research Assistant
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Anna Gonzalez Manjon
Research Officer

Research Projects

Telomere biology

We identified that telomere-loops (t-loops) function specifically to regulate ATM activity at human and mouse telomeres and collaborated with the Boulton Lab from the Crick Institute to identify how t-loops are resolved during S-phase to enable telomere replication. We are currently working to decipher the cell-cycle dependent telomere proteome and determine how t-loops are resolved in mitosis during non-canonical telomere deprotection.

DNA replication

We identified that nuclear actin polymerization alters nuclear architecture and promotes replication stress repair and characterized the regulatory pathway. Research in our lab continues to study how nuclear and chromatin architecture is regulated during DNA replication to promote genome stability. Additionally, we collaborate with Patrick Tam and the CMRI Embryology Unit to study the unique properties of replication in rapidly dividing embryonic stem cells.

Cell Death

Our studies of telomere biology and DNA replication led us unexpectedly to identify how lethal replication stress induces cell death specifically during mitosis through a pathway of cohesion fatigue and non-canonical telomere deprotection. We have expanded this study through collaboration with the Sydney West Radiation Oncology Network to focus on mechanisms of cell death in response to chemotherapeutic and radiation-oncology intervention.

Team Photos

Lab Alumni

Pragathi Masamsetti – Post-doctoral scientist CMRI Embryology Unit with Patrick Tam

Ronnie Low – Ph.D. Student University of Melbourne/WEHI with Tracy Putoczki

Patrick Stalder – Ph.D. Student ETH Zürich Institute of Molecular Systems Biology with Paola Picotti

Jessie Zhang – Medical Doctor, Concord Repatriation General Hospital

Ka Sin (Cassie) Mak - Regulatory Affairs Associate, MSD Pharmaceuticals

Sonja Frolich – Post-doctoral scientist University of Adelaide Research Centre for Infection Diseases, Danny Wilson Laboratory

Tara Bartolec – Ph.D. student UNSW with Marc Wilkins

Garima Moudgil – Medical Student, University of Queensland

Meet Georgia Kafer, Genome Integrity


View Full Publication list.

The Genome Integrity Unit has published in Nature and other top journals.