Member Profile – Dr Isabel Coutinho

Dr Isabel Coutinho was appointed to the University of Adelaide in January 2014 as a Post-Doctoral Early Career Research Scientist in the Adelaide Prostate Cancer Research Centre of the Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories.  Isabel is from Porto, Portugal and has a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, specialising in Microbiology from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Porto, Portugal.

Isabel is interested in modulation of proteins and cellular processes that are deregulated in cancer, and how this can be translated in to improvements in treatment. Isabel’s expertise was sought for a research program which is being funded by:

  • the Ray and Shirl Norman Cancer Research Trust
  • Cancer Australia/Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia/Rotary, and
  • the US Department of Defense and which the Adelaide Prostate Cancer Research Centre of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health is one of the leading sites along with the University of Washington (Prof Stephen Plymate), the University of Texas Southwestern (Assoc Prof Ganesh Raj), and the Royal Marsden Hospital, UK (Prof Johannes DeBono).

With a team of local scientists headed by Professor Wayne Tilley and Dr Luke Selth, Isabel is investigating the role of the androgen receptor protein, which binds testosterone and is a key protein implicated in prostate cancer.  Specifically the project is investigating super-active altered forms of this receptor, known as androgen receptor splice variants, which arise as an adaptive response to withdrawal of testosterone which is the primary treatment for advanced disease.
These variant receptors allow the tumour to continue to grow in the absence of testosterone, leading to lethal disease.  Better understanding how this variant arises and identifying and testing drugs which can block the action of this protein is the main aims of the US Department of Defense grant.

Isabel will be presenting her work at the October 30 men’s health research seminar (see separate post).


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