Originally trained as a medical practitioner specialising in neurology, Tao joined the Institute in 2003 as a Senior Research Officer after working in cancer research at St Vincent's Centre for Applied Medical Research, Sydney. He was promoted to Project Leader in 2009 and became a Group Leader in 2011.
Tao has extensively researched the role of histones, transcriptional super-enhancers and long noncoding RNAs in the formation of tumours (tumourigenesis), and has investigated how inhibitors of these molecules can act as anticancer agents. In recent years, his focus has turned to using a genomics approach to investigate critical genes and pathways responsible for driving neuroblastoma. Through this research, he aims to identify novel therapeutic targets and develop new targeted therapies to treat children with this disease.
Tao’s research focuses on genetic subtypes of ‘high-risk’ neuroblastoma – the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat neuroblastomas. These subtypes include MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma (which accounts for almost 40% of all cases of high-risk neuroblastoma), TERT re-arranged neuroblastoma (which occurs in about 24% of cases), and high-risk neuroblastoma with unknown oncogenic drivers.
Recently, Tao found evidence that molecules called long non-coding RNAs may be critical drivers of MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma, and his group became one of the first in the world to develop inhibitors of these molecules. Ultimately, they hope to see this research translate into clinical trials in children with neuroblastoma.
‘I like that my work is practical – we are working on real-life problems,’ says Tao. ‘Neuroblastoma is an important health issue, and hopefully through our research we can help children with this disease.’
Publications by Tao Liu