Associate Professor Vasso Apostolopoulos

Vasso Apostolpolous is one of Australia's most accomplished young medical researchers whose work was instrumental in developing a new cancer vaccine.

Honour Roll

Born in Melbourne in 1970, Vasso attained a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at the University of Melbourne. She then completed her PhD at the Austin Research Institute (ARI), where she worked until 1998 before going to the USA for three years to further her research.

Vasso made some of the first research discoveries that show alterations to cancer cells and developed a method of exploiting this alteration to protect against cancers. Clinical trails by Melbourne and Queensland oncologists have shown that the vaccine developed from this research is able to induce the 'right' sort of immune response in cancer patients, which holds great hopes for future cancer treatment.

Throughout her years of research, Vasso has often questioned the status quo of medical scientific thinking. She refuses to take "no" for an answer, despite some rejection by her peers about her reassessment of prevailing concepts in cancer treatment. She believed in the high quality of her experimental data and thought that if the current theories did not fit, then the theories must be wrong. In her quest to prove she was right, Vasso went to the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego for three years to use X-ray crystallography to get the best quality information for her research. These studies showed that she and her colleagues had been correct in their theories that altered cancer antigens "educate" the body's immune system.

Vasso has received a number of major Australian research awards as well as international awards in recognition of her scientific and community achievements. She frequently gives her time to educating younger students and addressing community groups around Australia and overseas. She is an Associate Professor in Immunology and Cancer Research and a National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia RD Wright Fellow. Her work has been published in the best scientific journals in the world. She now heads the cancer research laboratory at ARI.

Vasso is one of the youngest and most successful researchers Australia has produced. She is able to look critically at her work and the work of others, see the bigger picture and focus on the key issues that will lead to something useful for treating cancer. She is now using the principles she learned in her cancer studies and is applying them to other areas of immunology, leading her to research serious conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and some infectious diseases.