Professor Melissa Brown

Executive Dean

Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 51609




Melissa Brown completed her PhD at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne in 1993, on the structure and regulation of genes encoding colony-stimulating factor receptors in human leukaemia.

She then undertook postdoctoral training at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK) in London, funded firstly by an EMBO and then by an ICRF postdoctoral fellowship, working on the isolation and characterization of the first breast cancer susceptibility gene, BRCA1.

She joined The University of Queensland in 2000 as a Lecturer and is now a Professor and Executive Dean. In 2005 she undertook a six-month sabbatical at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at The University of Oxford.

The focus of Melissa’s research is cancer genetics, in particular understanding the transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of breast cancer genes and the impact of genetic variants on cancer risk and progression.

Research Interests

  • Regulation and function of cancer susceptibility genes
    Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and results from abnormal expression or function of multiple tumour suppressor genes and oncogenes. Our laboratory is interested in the regulation and function of a number of breast cancer- associated genes including those encoding BRCA1, BRCA2, and a range of miRNAs. We use a wide variety of molecular and cellular techniques to study how the expression of these genes is regulated and to examine the molecular and cellular consequences of disrupting their function in breast epithelial cell-lines and the mammary gland of mouse models. Project 1: Regulation of the breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 This project will involve identifying novel regulatory elements controlling the expression of the BRCA1 gene. We are especially interested in the 3�UTR of BRCA1 and miRNAs that target this region. This project will involve elucidating the structure, function and clinical relevance of functional elements in the BRCA1 3�UTR. These elements have the potential to form the basis of improved pre-symptomatic diagnostics for breast cancer. Project 2: Regulation of microRNA genes in advanced breast cancer The aim of this project is to identify and functionally characterize miRNA promoters and their downstream target genes. Particular interest will be given to miRNAs that may be susceptible to aberrant epigenetic regulation. These miRNA have the potential to be novel biomarkers for the identification and management of patients that are susceptible to advanced breast cancer. Project 3: Molecular & cellular consequences of disrupting breast cancer genes The aim of this project is to understand how changes in the regulation or function of breast cancer genes results in the development of breast cancer. This project will involve examining the effect of increasing and decreasing the expression of normal, variant and mutant forms of breast cancer genes on the expression of genes, including miRNAs, in breast epithelial cells. These molecules have the potential to be targets of novel therapeutic agents to treat breast cancer. Techniques: Bioinformatics, gene cloning and mutagenesis, mammalian cell culture and gene transfer, reporter gene assays, real-time PCR, Northern blotting, chromatin conformation assays, methylation specific DNA analysis, cell culture assays including cell proliferation and differentiation.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor (Honours) of Science (Advanced), University of Melbourne
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Melbourne


  • Degasperi, Andrea, Zou, Xueqing, Amarante, Tauanne Dias, Martinez-Martinez, Andrea, Koh, Gene Ching Chiek, Dias, Joao M. L., Heskin, Laura, Chmelova, Lucia, Rinaldi, Giuseppe, Wang, Valerie Ya Wen, Nanda, Arjun S., Bernstein, Aaron, Momen, Sophie E., Young, Jamie, Perez-Gil, Daniel, Memari, Yasin, Badja, Cherif, Shooter, Scott, Czarnecki, Jan, Brown, Matthew A., Davies, Helen R. and Nik-Zainal, Serena (2022). Substitution mutational signatures in whole-genome-sequenced cancers in the UK population. Science, 376 (6591) eabl9283, 1-17. doi: 10.1126/science.abl9283

  • Johnson, Nichola, Maguire, Sarah, Morra, Anna, Kapoor, Pooja Middha, Tomczyk, Katarzyna, Jones, Michael E., Schoemaker, Minouk J., Gilham, Clare, Bolla, Manjeet K., Wang, Qin, Dennis, Joe, Ahearn, Thomas U., Andrulis, Irene L., Anton-Culver, Hoda, Antonenkova, Natalia N., Arndt, Volker, Aronson, Kristan J., Augustinsson, Annelie, Baynes, Caroline, Freeman, Laura E. Beane, Beckmann, Matthias W., Benitez, Javier, Bermisheva, Marina, Blomqvist, Carl, Boeckx, Bram, Bogdanova, Natalia V., Bojesen, Stig E., Brauch, Hiltrud, Brenner, Hermann ... Fletcher, Olivia (2021). CYP3A7*1C allele: linking premenopausal oestrone and progesterone levels with risk of hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. British Journal of Cancer, 124 (4), 842-854. doi: 10.1038/s41416-020-01185-w

  • Fachal, Laura, Aschard, Hugues, Beesley, Jonathan, Barnes, Daniel R., Allen, Jamie, Kar, Siddhartha, Pooley, Karen A., Dennis, Joe, Michailidou, Kyriaki, Turman, Constance, Soucy, Penny, Lemaçon, Audrey, Lush, Michael, Tyrer, Jonathan P., Ghoussaini, Maya, Marjaneh, Mahdi Moradi, Jiang, Xia, Agata, Simona, Aittomäki, Kristiina, Alonso, M. Rosario, Andrulis, Irene L., Anton-Culver, Hoda, Antonenkova, Natalia N., Arason, Adalgeir, Arndt, Volker, Aronson, Kristan J., Arun, Banu K., Auber, Bernd, Auer, Paul L. ... Dunning, Alison M. (2020). Fine-mapping of 150 breast cancer risk regions identifies 191 likely target genes. Nature Genetics, 52 (1), 56-73. doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0537-1

View all Publications


Book Chapter

  • Sandhu, Gurveen K., Milevskiy, Michael J.G., Wilson, Wesley, Shewan, Annette M. and Brown, Melissa A. (2016). Non-coding RNAs in mammary gland development and disease. Non-coding RNA and the Reproductive System. (pp. 121-153) edited by Wilhelm, D and Bernard, P. New York, United States: Springer . doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-7417-8_7

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Completed Supervision