Welcome Janni Petersen
Associate Professor Janni Petersen
Associate Professor Janni Petersen

A biomedical scientist from a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine winning lab in the United Kingdom is preparing to continue her breakthrough research project at the Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer.

A/Prof Janni Petersen made her first scientific breakthrough under prestigious company working alongside Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse at the Rockefeller University in New York, studying the role of protein kinases in regulating cell cycle progression in fission yeast.  

A Flinders Medical Centre Foundation seed grant will allow A/Prof Petersen to start her exploration into uncontrolled growth and proliferation of cancer cells, with the aim to better understand how the cell cycle is controlled and what goes wrong during tumour development. 

“The space at Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer attracted me because of its open plan policy where all teams share equipment, offices and laboratory space. I think that’s really productive for science, because it promotes interaction, which is really good for students,” A/Prof Petersen said.

According to A/Prof Petersen’s research cancer cells inappropriately colonise parts of the body and are invariably more stressed than normal cells due to lacking normal nutrient supply. Therefore, not surprisingly, changes in stress response signalling are linked to cancer and are often altered in human tumours.

“My research began in Paul Nurse’s laboratory over a decade ago, where we discovered that Target of Rapamycin (TOR) signalling pathway controls mitosis (cell cycle process) and that the decision made by cells to divide is also made by the TOR pathway.”

“Currently, I’m moving further on in the pathway, to try and understand how nitrogen is regulating the decision of the TOR pathway to control mitosis and cell division Basically we’re going further away from the actual enzyme that is the key switch of cell division by trying to understand how it itself is regulated, but it’s all connected with what I originally worked on with Paul Nurse.”

 “We want to investigate what makes cancer cells different from other normal cells. We can then specifically target cancer cells, rather than all cells in the body, because a lot of the problems with cancer drugs is that they have a huge effect on all cells in the body and in the end cancer cells are our own cells, just slightly different.”

A/Prof Petersen has been appointed to Flinders University as an Associate Professor along with a Faculty appointment at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) as part of the Nutrition and Metabolism theme.