Professor Joe Trapani

Joe Trapani is Executive Director Cancer Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Melbourne, where he leads the Cancer Immunology Program. Joe’s research interests include the immunopathology of viral and auto-immune diseases, apoptosis induction by cytotoxic lymphocytes and cancer immunotherapy. He has authored > 310 research papers, reviews and book chapters on these topics, which have been cited >22,000 times. Joe Trapani is a member of the Executive (Board) and Chair of the Medical and Scientific Committee of the Cancer Council Victoria and of many peer-review bodies in academia and industry.

Professor Trapani recently received a $13.5 million award from the Wellcome Trust (UK), to lead a consortium of Australian, New Zealand and Chinese research teams, to develop a new class of immune-suppressive drugs that protect transplanted bone marrow stem cells against rejection mediated by NK cells.

Joe Trapani received his medical degree in 1977 and his PhD in 1985, from The University of Melbourne. He completed physician training (FRACP) in Rheumatology (1985) and received his PhD in the immunogenetics of HLA-associated disease, particularly B27-related arthropathy. Joe first became interested in how the immune system defends against viruses and cancer while working as a post-doctoral fellow at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute, New York. Here, Professor Trapani discovered a number of the genes and proteins used by killer lymphocytes to eliminate virus-infected cells. He found that one protein (perforin) forms pores in the target cell and provides access for other proteins (granzymes) to enter and trigger cell death by causing apoptosis .With his colleagues, Professor Trapani has also devised ways of harnessing the power of these killer lymphocytes and adapted their use to adoptive immunotherapy for various cancers. Joe’s team has further identified a rare group of children with inherited defects of perforin function and shown that they frequently develop leukaemia.