• The University of Western Australia (M510), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth

    Australia

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Personal profile

Biography

Fiona Pixley is a physician scientist with an MBBS(Hons) from the University of Western Australia and a DPhil in Clinical Medicine/Epidemiology from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar. After 5 years of physician training in Oxford and London hospitals, she became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK) and returned to biomedical research. With the understanding that the use of molecular approaches was critical to elucidating the causes of disease, she spent a year learning techniques in molecular and cell biology at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford. Dr Pixley subsequently worked with Richard Stanley at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York on the role of CSF-1 and tyrosine phosphorylation in the regulation of macrophage adhesion and motility. In 2007 she moved back to the University of Western Australia to start up her own laboratory in the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

The current focus of research in the Pixley laboratory is examining how tumour-associated macrophages promote cancer progression with a particular interest in how macrophages encourage breast cancers to become invasive. Two additional projects have developed from this core project: 1) characterisation of a new marker to better identify tumour-associated macrophages in human breast cancer, and 2) development of a drug that targets migratory tumour-associated macrophages to reduce cancer growth and block its spread.

Roles and responsibilities

General:

  • Head of Discipline, Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • School of Biomedical Sciences Executive Committee

Research:

  • Chair, School of Biomedical Sciences Research Committee
  • Organiser, School of Biomedical Sciences seminar series

Teaching:

  • Curriculum development for Pharmacology, Pharmacology Major
  • Curriculum development for Pharmacology, MD course 

 

Teaching overview

  • PHAR3310 Molecular Pharmacology, unit coordinator
  • PHAR3311 Molecular Pharmacology Methods, unit coordinator
  • PHAR3321 Systems Pharmacology Methods, tutor  
  • PHAR1101 Drugs that Changed the World, lecturer
  • PHAR2220 Human Pharmacology, lecturer
  • IMED2002 Blood and Drugs, lecturer
  • IMED3003 Body Systems and Disease III, lecturer
  • IMED3004 Body Systems and Disease IV, lecturer
  • IMED3111 MD year 1, semester 1, lecturer and discipline lead
  • IMED3112 MD year 1, semester 2, lecturer and discipline lead
  • IMED4220 MD year 2, semester 1, lecturer and discipline lead

 

Research

Expertise - macrophage biology, cancer biology, cell motility and invasion, breast cancer, optical and super resolution microscopy.

Overview - macrophages are found in every tissue and play an important role in tissue development and homeostasis. They also contribute to the progression of a number of diseases, including cancer. In particular, tumour associated macrophages encourage tumour invasion and metastasis by activating cancer cell motility and then by digging tunnels for cancer cells to move through tissue barriers. Examination of macrophage-specific motility and invasion proteins will help to identify potential therapeutic targets in the treatment of cancer. Dr Pixley’s laboratory is focused on the role of CSF-1 receptor signalling and tyrosine phosphorylation in the activation of downstream signal transduction pathways that regulate macrophage adhesion, motility and matrix degradation. Compared with more commonly studied yet less motile cell types such as fibroblasts, motility is regulated quite differently in the professionally motile macrophage. A broad range of microscopic and biochemical techniques is employed in the laboratory to dissect the mechanisms by which CSF-1 receptor tyrosine phosphorylation activates specific downstream signalling pathways to stimulate macrophage motility. Dr Pixley also collaborates extensively to investigate the role of other tyrosine phosphorylated proteins, such as FAK, Pyk2, paxillin and leupaxin, which are important in the regulation of macrophage differentiation, adhesion and motility. 

Funding (CIA):

  • NIH KO8 award
  • NHMRC Project grant
  • CCWA Project grants
  • Ada Bartholomew grant
  • UWA Near Miss award
  • UWA Research Collaboration award

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Director of the Board, Western Australian Institute of Sport

1 Jun 2018 → …

Director of the Board, Water Polo Western Australia Inc.

1 Oct 201430 Apr 2018

Research expertise keywords

  • Macrophage biology
  • Macrophage imaging
  • Cancer biology
  • CSF-1R signal transduction
  • Tyrosine phosphorylation
  • Cell adhesion and motility
  • Invasion and metastasis
  • Breast cancer

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