Frances Byrne


Professional Experience

2021                 MTPConnect Researcher Exchange and Development within Industry (REDI) Fellow

2018-2021         Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellow (UNSW)

2014-2017         Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellow (UVa/UNSW)

2012-2014         Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Virginia (UVa, USA)

2008-2012         Anthony Rothe Memorial Trust PhD Scholar, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW)

2005-2008         Research Assistant, Children’s Cancer Institute (UNSW)

2002-2005         Methods Development Scientist, GroPep Bioreagents (Adelaide)

1999-2003         Bachelor of Biotechnology (Hons), Flinders University of South Australia

Research Metrics

  • 35 publications (7 first author, 1 senior author, 2 commentaries, 1 book chapter)
  • h-index 17
  • Citations >1300 (source Google Scholar)

Research Focus

Dr Byrne has been passionate about cancer research since she was a child, after watching the devastating impact childhood cancer had on close friends and families. This passion led to her move to Sydney to research childhood cancers with Prof Maria Kavallaris at the Children’s Cancer Institute. Dr Byrne was awarded her PhD in 2012 for her research that discovered how a cytoskeletal protein promotes metastasis in neuroblastoma (an aggressive childhood cancer) (Byrne et al. 2014, Oncogene). Dr Byrne then trained as a postdoc at the University of Virginia (USA) from 2012-2014 where she studied cancer cell metabolism and the pathophysiology of obesity-related cancers (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). She returned to Australia in 2014 to the School of Biotechnology & Biomolecular Sciences (UNSW), and now leads an exceptional team of students (PhD, honours, and undergraduates) and a research assistant, and has established strong national and international collaborations with other leading researchers, gynaecological oncologists, gastroenterologists, pathologists, and medicinal chemists.

She has 3 major research interests:

Research Project 1: Developing Novel Drugs for Cancer

Dr Byrne performed a drug screen that identified a small molecule that has better cancer cell-specific toxicity than many chemotherapy agents. This screen and the proposed mechanism of action of this molecule are described in her recent publication (Byrne et al. 2020, Redox Biology). This research led to multiple speaker invitations at conferences and drug development workshops, and helped her attract a TCRN Conference Grant, and 2 highly competitive post-doctoral fellowships from the Hope Funds for Cancer Research (see her video interview here) and the Cancer Institute NSW. These fellowships fund her ongoing work with this project in collaboration with medicinal chemist Dr Naresh Kumar (Chemistry, UNSW) to develop new and improved anti-cancer molecules. Through this collaboration, she has co-supervised 3 honours students and a masters (MPhil) student. This research was also fundamental in helping her attract a MTPConnect REDI Fellowship, which is one of only 10 awarded nationally in 2021 (see more info here). Dr Byrne is also leading a research program to test the anti-cancer activity of novel mitochondrial uncouplers with Continuum Biosciences/Life Biosciences.

Research Project 2: Identifying New Drug Targets for Cancer

Dr Byrne’s research has identified a new drug target for cancer, the glucose transporter GLUT6 (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). This was the first study to show that GLUT6 plays an important role in cancer cells. Dr Byrne then developed and phenotyped the first GLUT6 knockout mouse and showed that loss of GLUT6 is not detrimental to mice (Byrne et al. 2018, Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab). This publication was highlighted in the F1000Prime/Faculty Opinions. This research suggests that GLUT6 may be a good target for cancer therapy because loss of this protein may not affect healthy tissues. Recently, her lab showed that GLUT6 expression is driven by an inflammatory signaling pathway (NF-κB) in endometrial cancer cells (Caruana & Byrne 2020, Cellular Signalling). Importantly, this research provides clues as to why GLUT6 may be upregulated in this malignancy and how we might target GLUT6 in cancer cells by blocking inflammatory pathways.

Research Project 3: Unravelling the links between diet, obesity, and cancer

Cancers of the liver and uterus (endometrium) are strongly linked to poor diet and obesity, and the incidence of these cancers is on the rise in Australia and other developed countries.

Obesity often causes disruptions to glucose homeostasis. Dr Byrne’s research has shown that endometrial tumours rely on glucose metabolism (glycolysis) to survive (Byrne et al. 2014, Cancer Research). This study and that of others were the focus of a recent review she conceptualised and co-authored (Byrne et al. 2020, Cancers). Dr Byrne and her team are now conducting multi-omic studies on patient samples from women with and without endometrial cancer. This includes a new area of research investigating the links between obesity, uterine microbiota, and endometrial cancer, which attracted funding from the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), the Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN), and UNSW (Next-Generation Sequencing Grant). Dr Byrne recently shared the results of this exciting work at the Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG) Pure Science Symposium. Importantly, this is the first study to measure cancer-specific and obesity-specific endometrial microbiota signatures in human patients, which could pave the way for new preventative and therapeutic strategies for this cancer.

Dr Byrne uses a carcinogen-induced mouse model of liver tumorigenesis to study how different diets influence the development of liver cancer. She and her colleagues have shown that; 1) feeding mice ketogenic diet does not alter the growth of established liver tumours (Byrne et al. 2018, Cancers), 2) high levels of dietary sugar, but not fat, promotes liver tumour development, and 3) loss of lipid synthesis enzymes in the livers of mice increases liver tumorigenesis (which challenges the dogma in the field that lipid synthesis is critical for the growth of these tumours). She is currently investigating the links between dietary fructose and liver tumorigenesis in this model.

Contribution to Profession

Dr Byrne reviews fellowship applications (Hope Funds for Cancer Research), NHMRC grants, HDR student theses, and manuscripts for AJP Endocrinology & Metabolism, Scientific Reports, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Endocrine-Related Cancer, Journal of Pathology, Biomed Research International, Cellular Signalling, Cells, Cancers, etc. She also serves on the Honours Committee for BABS and helps organise and chair sessions at national conferences. She is also a member of the Sustainability Committee for BABS.


Dr Byrne enjoys engaging with students through lectures, one-on-one supervision in her lab, the Talented Students Program (BABS), and at Careers Night run by BABSOC. She lectures in BABS3151 (topic: Cancer Genetics), BIOC3271/3671 (topic: Molecular Approaches to Cancer Cell Biology), BIOC3261 (topic: Cancer Metabolism), and co-convenes BABS2011 (Current Trends in Biotechnology). She currently supervises PhD, honours, and undergraduate students (SCIF2041/3041, BABS3301, BIOC3671) in BABS, and co-supervises a MPhil student in Chemistry. She also regularly co-supervises and mentors Independent Learning Project (ILP), honours, and PhD students in the School of Medicine.

Dr Byrne has research projects suited to honours, MPhil and PhD students in the 3 main areas of her research (listed above).  

Social Engagement & Equity

Member of the Executive Committee for the Women in Research Network (WiRN), Faculty of Science representative (2021-2023). Dr Byrne is passionate about wanting to ensure UNSW is a workplace where females (and female identifying people) are treated fairly and have equal opportunities. She aims to promote this network to females that are new to UNSW, particularly ECRs and EMCRs, who might not feel that they have proper support and know what opportunities exist for them as they progress in their career.

Member of the Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN). Dr Byrne recognizes the importance of communicating her cancer research with the wider community. She has developed strong relationships with Mr Jeff Cuff and Mr Phil Mendoza-Jones who are highly experienced members of the Consumer Advisory Panel (CAP) of the TCRN. Jeff’s wife sadly lost her life to colon cancer in 2013 while Phil is a survivor of the same malignancy, although he suffers from chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy. In addition to his role as a research advocate, Jeff has also been an active member of Dr Byrne’s laboratory because he has a keen interest in scientific research (see Jeff's profile here). Jeff’s contributions led to co-authorship in Dr Byrne’s publication (Byrne et al, 2020 Redox Biology) and he continues to play an important role in guiding her research and has helped her establish new collaborations with cancer researchers at WEHI.

Journal articles
Flynn MC; Kraakman MJ; Tikellis C; Lee MKS; Hanssen NMJ; Kammoun HL; Pickering RJ; Dragoljevic D; Al-Sharea A; Barrett TJ; Hortle F; Byrne FL; Olzomer E; McCarthy DA; Schalkwijk CG; Forbes JM; Hoehn K; Makowski L; Lancaster GI; El-Osta A; Fisher EA; Goldberg IJ; Cooper ME; Nagareddy PR; Thomas MC; Murphy AJ, 2020, 'Transient Intermittent Hyperglycemia Accelerates Atherosclerosis by Promoting Myelopoiesis', Circulation Research, vol. 127, pp. 877 - 892,
Caruana BT; Byrne FL, 2020, 'The NF-κB signalling pathway regulates GLUT6 expression in endometrial cancer', Cellular Signalling, vol. 73,
Hegarty KJ; Byrne FL, 2020, 'Comment on “differential effects of mitovite, α-tocopherol and trolox on oxidative stress, mitochondrial function and inflammatory signalling pathways in endothelial cells cultured under conditions mimicking sepsis, antioxidants 2020, 9(3), 195”', Antioxidants, vol. 9,
Byrne FL; Olzomer EM; Marriott GR; Quek LE; Katen A; Su J; Nelson ME; Hart-Smith G; Larance M; Sebesfi VF; Cuff J; Martyn GE; Childress E; Alexopoulos SJ; Poon IK; Faux MC; Burgess AW; Reid G; McCarroll JA; Santos WL; Quinlan KG; Turner N; Fazakerley DJ; Kumar N; Hoehn KL, 2020, 'Phenotypic screen for oxygen consumption rate identifies an anti-cancer naphthoquinone that induces mitochondrial oxidative stress', Redox Biology, vol. 28, pp. 101374 - 101374,
Alexopoulos SJ; Chen SY; Brandon AE; Salamoun JM; Byrne FL; Garcia CJ; Beretta M; Olzomer EM; Shah DP; Philp AM; Hargett SR; Lawrence RT; Lee B; Sligar J; Carrive P; Tucker SP; Philp A; Lackner C; Turner N; Cooney GJ; Santos WL; Hoehn KL, 2020, 'Mitochondrial uncoupler BAM15 reverses diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance in mice', Nature Communications, vol. 11, pp. 2397,
Schömel N; Gruber L; Alexopoulos SJ; Trautmann S; Olzomer EM; Byrne FL; Hoehn KL; Gurke R; Thomas D; Ferreirós N; Geisslinger G; Wegner MS, 2020, 'UGCG overexpression leads to increased glycolysis and increased oxidative phosphorylation of breast cancer cells', Scientific Reports, vol. 10, pp. 8182,
Byrne FL; Martin AR; Kosasih M; Caruana BT; Farrell R, 2020, 'The role of hyperglycemia in endometrial cancer pathogenesis', Cancers, vol. 12,
Schömel N; Hancock SE; Gruber L; Olzomer EM; Byrne FL; Shah D; Hoehn KL; Turner N; Grösch S; Geisslinger G; Wegner MS, 2019, 'UGCG influences glutamine metabolism of breast cancer cells', Scientific Reports, vol. 9, pp. 15665,
Caruana BT; Byrne FL; Knights AJ; Quinlan KGR; Hoehn KL, 2019, 'Characterization of glucose transporter 6 in lipopolysaccharide-induced bone marrow-derived macrophage function', Journal of Immunology, vol. 202, pp. 1826 - 1832,
Huo Y; Buckton LK; Bennett JL; Smith EC; Byrne FL; Hoehn KL; Rahimi MN; McAlpine SR, 2019, 'Delivering bioactive cyclic peptides that target Hsp90 as prodrugs', Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 34, pp. 728 - 739,
Namivandi-Zangeneh R; Kwan RJ; Thuy-Khanh N; Yeow J; Byrne FL; Oehlers SH; Wong EHH; Boyer C, 2018, 'The effects of polymer topology and chain length on the antimicrobial activity and hemocompatibility of amphiphilic ternary copolymers (vol 9, pg 1735, 2017)', POLYMER CHEMISTRY, vol. 9, pp. 1745 - 1745,
Byrne FL; Hargett SR; Lahiri S; Roy RJ; Berr SS; Caldwell SH; Hoehn KL, 2018, 'Serial MRI imaging reveals minimal impact of ketogenic diet on established liver tumor growth', Cancers, vol. 10,
Chen BJ; Byrne FL; Takenaka K; Modesitt SC; Olzomer EM; Mills JD; Farrell R; Hoehn KL; Janitz M, 2018, 'Analysis of the circular RNA transcriptome in endometrial cancer', Oncotarget, vol. 9, pp. 5786 - 5796,
Namivandi-Zangeneh R; Kwan RJ; Nguyen TK; Yeow J; Byrne FL; Oehlers SH; Wong EHH; Boyer C, 2018, 'The effects of polymer topology and chain length on the antimicrobial activity and hemocompatibility of amphiphilic ternary copolymers', Polymer Chemistry, vol. 9, pp. 1735 - 1744,
Byrne FL; Olzomer EM; Brink R; Hoehn KL, 2018, 'Knockout of glucose transporter GLUT6 has minimal effects on whole body metabolic physiology in mice', American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, vol. 315, pp. E286 - E293,
Nelson ME; Lahiri S; Chow JDY; Byrne FL; Hargett SR; Breen DS; Olzomer EM; Wu LE; Cooney GJ; Turner N; James DE; Slack-Davis JK; Lackner C; Caldwell SH; Hoehn KL, 2017, 'Inhibition of hepatic lipogenesis enhances liver tumorigenesis by increasing antioxidant defence and promoting cell survival', Nature Communications, vol. 8,
Chen BJ; Byrne FL; Takenaka K; Modesitt SC; Olzomer EM; Mills JD; Farrell R; Hoehn KL; Janitz M, 2017, 'Transcriptome landscape of long intergenic non-coding RNAs in endometrial cancer', Gynecologic Oncology, vol. 147, pp. 654 - 662,
Gordon HM; Majithia N; MacDonald PE; Fox JEM; Sharma PR; Byrne FL; Hoehn KL; Evans-Molina C; Langman L; Brayman KL; Nunemaker CS, 2017, 'STEAP4 expression in human islets is associated with differences in body mass index, sex, HbA1c, and inflammation', Endocrine, vol. 56, pp. 528 - 537,
Fife CM; Sagnella SM; Teo WS; Po'uha ST; Byrne FL; Yeap YY; Ng DC; Davis TP; McCarroll JA; Kavallaris M, 2017, 'Stathmin mediates neuroblastoma metastasis in a tubulin-independent manner via RhoA/ROCK signaling and enhanced transendothelial migration.', Oncogene, vol. 36, pp. 501 - 511,
Byrne FL; McCarroll JA; Kavallaris M, 2016, 'Analyses of tumor burden in vivo and metastasis ex vivo using luciferase-expressing cancer cells in an orthotopic mouse model of neuroblastoma', RNA imaging: methods and protocols, vol. 1372, pp. 61 - 77,
Byrne FL; Hoehn KL, 2016, 'Subclassification of fatty liver by its pathogenesis: CIEFing is believing', Journal of Pathology, vol. 239, pp. 3 - 5,
McCarroll JA, 2016, 'Stathmin mediates neuroblastoma metastasis in a tubulin-independent manner via RhoA/ROCK signaling and enhanced transendothelial migration', Oncogene, vol. 36, pp. 501 - 511,
Takenaka K; Chen BJ; Modesitt SC; Byrne FL; Hoehn KL; Janitz M, 2016, 'The emerging role of long non-coding RNAs in endometrial cancer', Cancer Genetics, vol. 209, pp. 445 - 455,
Healy ME; Lahiri S; Hargett SR; Chow JDY; Byrne FL; Breen DS; Kenwood BM; Taddeo EP; Lackner C; Caldwell SH; Hoehn KL, 2016, 'Dietary sugar intake increases liver tumor incidence in female mice', Scientific Reports, vol. 6,
McCarroll JA; Gan PP; Erlich RB; Liu M; Dwarte T; Sagnella SS; Akerfeldt MC; Yang L; Parker AL; Chang MH; Shum MS; Byrne FL; Kavallaris M, 2015, 'TUBB3/βIII-tubulin acts through the PTEN/AKT signaling axis to promote tumorigenesis and anoikis resistance in non-small cell lung cancer', Cancer Research, vol. 75, pp. 415 - 425,
Healy ME; Chow JDY; Byrne FL; Breen DS; Leitinger N; Li C; Lackner C; Caldwell SH; Hoehn KL, 2015, 'Dietary effects on liver tumor burden in mice treated with the hepatocellular carcinogen diethylnitrosamine', Journal of Hepatology, vol. 62, pp. 599 - 606,
Du X; Zhang Y; Jo SR; Liu X; Qi Y; Osborne B; Byrne FL; Smith GC; Turner N; Hoehn KL; Brown AJ; Yang H, 2015, 'Akt activation increases cellular cholesterol by promoting the proteasomal degradation of Niemann-Pick C1', Biochemical Journal, vol. 471, pp. 243 - 253,
Kashatus JA; Nascimento A; Myers LJ; Sher A; Byrne FL; Hoehn KL; Counter CM; Kashatus DF, 2015, 'Erk2 phosphorylation of Drp1 promotes mitochondrial fission and MAPK-driven tumor growth', Molecular Cell, vol. 57, pp. 537 - 551,
Byrne FL; Poon IKH; Modesitt SC; Tomsig JL; Chow JDY; Healy ME; Baker WD; Atkins KA; Lancaster JM; Marchion DC; Moley KH; Ravichandran KS; Slack-Davis JK; Hoehn KL, 2014, 'Metabolic vulnerabilities in endometrial cancer', Cancer Research, vol. 74, pp. 5832 - 5845,
Byrne FL; Yang L; Phillips PA; Hansford LM; Fletcher JI; Ormandy CJ; McCarroll JA; Kavallaris M, 2014, 'RNAi-mediated stathmin suppression reduces lung metastasis in an orthotopic neuroblastoma mouse model', Oncogene, vol. 33, pp. 882 - 890,
Chow JDY; Lawrence RT; Healy ME; Dominy JE; Liao JA; Breen DS; Byrne FL; Kenwood BM; Lackner C; Okutsu S; Mas VR; Caldwell SH; Tomsig JL; Cooney GJ; Puigserver PB; Turner N; James DE; Villén J; Hoehn KL, 2014, 'Genetic inhibition of hepatic acetyl-CoA carboxylase activity increases liver fat and alters global protein acetylation', Molecular Metabolism, vol. 3, pp. 419 - 431,
Kenwood BM; Weaver JL; Byrne FL; Murrow BA; Tomsig JL; Cameron Coleman G; Yan Z; Lynch KR; Bayliss DA; Hoehn KL; Bajwa A; Huang L; Okusa MD; Poon IK; Ravichandran KS; Divakaruni AS; Saucerman JJ; Smith JS; Holmes JW; Rogers GW; Lo RH; Columbus L; Okabe K; Uchiyama S; Calderone JA; Santos WL, 2013, 'Identification of a novel mitochondrial uncoupler that does not depolarize the plasma membrane', Molecular Metabolism,
Gan PP; Mccarroll J; Byrne F; Garner J; Kavallaris M, 2011, 'Specific beta-Tubulin Isotypes Can Functionally Enhance or Diminish Epothilone B Sensitivity in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells', PLoS One, vol. 6, pp. e21717,
Abraham G; McCaroll J; Byrne F; Saricilar S; Kavallaris M; Bulmus V, 2010, 'Block Co-polymer Nanoparticles with Degradable Cross-Linked Core and Low-Molecular-Weight PEG Corona for Anti-tumour Drug Delivery', Journal of Biomaterials Science - Polymer Edition, vol. 22, pp. 1001 - 1022,
Chan YK; Wong TH; Byrne F; Kavallaris M; Bulmus V, 2008, 'Acid-labile core cross-linked micelles for pH-triggered release of antitumor drugs.', Biomacromolecules, vol. 9, pp. 1826 - 1836,
Chan YK; Bulmus V; Zareie MH; Barner L; Kavallaris M; Byrne F, 2006, 'Acid-Cleavable polymeric core-shell particles for delivery of hydrophoblic drugs', Journal of Controlled Release, vol. 115, pp. 197 - 207,
Conference Papers
McCarroll JA; Gan PP; Erlich RB; Liu M; Dwarte T; Akerfeldt MC; Chang M; Shum MS; Byrne F; Kavallaris M, 2014, 'beta III-tubulin is required for the tumorigenic phenotype and resistance to anoikis via the PTEN/AKT signaling axis in non-small cell lung cancer', in CANCER RESEARCH, AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, San Diego, CA, presented at 105th Annual Meeting of the American-Association-for-Cancer-Research (AACR), San Diego, CA, 05 April 2014 - 09 April 2014,
Fife CM; Byrne FL; Sagnella SM; Davis TP; McCarroll JA; Kavallaris M, 2014, 'Stathmin regulates cell migration, invasion and transendothelial migration via RhoA activation in neuroblastoma', in CANCER RESEARCH, AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, San Diego, CA, presented at 105th Annual Meeting of the American-Association-for-Cancer-Research (AACR), San Diego, CA, 05 April 2014 - 09 April 2014,
McCarroll JA; Gan PP; Liu M; Dwarte T; Chang M; Byrne F; Kavallaris M, 2010, 'beta III-Tubulin regulates expression of proteins involved in tumorigenesis and metastasis in non-small cell lung cancer', in CANCER RESEARCH, AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH,
Book Chapters
Ng DCH; Byrne FL, 2012, 'Stathmin and Cancer', in Kavallaris M (ed.), Cytoskeleton and Human Disease, Humana Press,
Theses / Dissertations
Byrne FL, 2012, Investigation of stathmin's role in neuroblastoma drug resistance, differentiation and metastasis, University of New South Wales, Children's Cancer Institute
Conference Abstracts
Byrne FL; Phillips PA; Hansford LM; Fletcher JI; Ormandy CJ; McCarroll JA; Kavallaris M, 2012, 'Stathmin suppression influences ROCK signaling and reduces cell invasion and metastasis in neuroblastoma', in CANCER RESEARCH, AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, Vol. 72,
  • Paper of the Month for publication in Redox Biology, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW (2019)

  • Best oral presentation at AussieMit conference, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Perth, WA (2014)

  • Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation Travel Grant, AussieMit conference, Perth, WA (2014)

  • Paper of the Month for publication in Cancer Research, School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, UNSW, Australia (2014)

  • Sydney Catalyst Prize for best cancer-related poster, Annual Garvan Signalling Symposium, Sydney, Australia (2014)

  • Jefferson Cup awarded for oral presentation at the UVA Postdoctoral Research Day, University of Virginia (USA) (2014)

  • Poster prize at the Inaugural UVA Postdoctoral Research Day, University of Virginia (USA) (2013)

  • University of Sydney Medal for Best Overall Presentation, ASMR Medical Research Week NSW Scientific Meeting (2011)








MTPConnect Researcher Exchange & Development within Industry (REDI) Fellowship (2021)

Cancer Institute NSW Early Career Fellowship (2018-2021)

UNSW Career Advancement Fund (2019)

Translational Cancer Research Network (TCRN) grant (2018)

Next Generation Sequencing Grant, UNSW (2018)

Conference and Professional Development Grant, TCRN (2017)

Early Career Researcher Grant, Faculty of Science, UNSW (2016)

Hope Funds for Cancer Research Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017) (USA), Malcolm AS Moore Honorary Fellow

Anthony Rothe Memorial PhD Scholarship (2008-2011)

Louiza Zervos Memorial Scholarship in Paediatrics (2010)