Professor Hubert Hondermarck: Pioneering cancer neuroscientist

By NSW Regional Cancer Research Network (NSWRCRN) posted 11-12-2023 03:23 PM


Professor Hubert Hondermarck’ s research is positioned at the frontier between oncology and neuroscience, exploring the neural regulation of cancer. For the last two decades, Professor Hondermarck’s research has increased our understanding of the complex relationship between the nervous system and tumour development and survival.

"It's an emerging area in research called Cancer Neuroscience” Professor Hondermarck explains “Our laboratory is contributing to this. It means looking at the role of the nerves and nervous system in the initiation and progression of cancer. This is something which has been underestimated up until now."

By using cutting-edge precision medicine techniques such as proteomics and transcriptomics, Professor Hondermarck and his team aim to define the role of the nervous system in cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis. The ultimate objective of cancer neuroscience research is to develop innovative diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic strategies in oncology based on the cross-talk between neuronal and cancer cells.

Based at the University of Newcastle School of Biomedical Science and Pharmacy, Professor Hondermarck’s medical biochemistry research has evolved from studying breast and prostate cancer, to brain cancer and the critical role nerve cells play in cancer development. He began his academic career at the University of Lille in France and carried out postdoctoral research at the University of California Irvine. After establishing a research unit dedicated to the study of growth factor signalling and functional proteomics in cancer at the French Institute of Health and Medical research, he came  to the University Newcastle to carry on this work.

Professor Hondermarck and his team, in collaboration with Associate Professor Saad Ramadan form the HMRI imaging centre, have previously demonstrated that Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a powerful and non-invasive method to determine high-grade prostate cancer that requires interventional treatment. This technique enables the identification of aggressive tumours, significantly enhancing diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring capabilities.

One of his recent projects aims to utilise cutting-edge multimodal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to advance brain cancer diagnosis. Supported by a NSW Regional Cancer Research Network (NSWRCRN) research grant, Professor Hondermarck’s project seeks to develop non-invasive, highly sensitive MRI-based techniques to assess nerve activity around tumours, which can be an indicator of a high-risk, aggressive tumour. It is done in collaboration with Professor Mike Fay (Mark Hughes Foundation), Associate Prof Saad Ramadan (HMRI), and Associate Professor Peter Greer (Mater Hospital).

Utilising this advanced MRI technique, Professor Hondermarck hopes to also accurately define the size and density of brain tumours, so that their treating doctors can make appropriate treatment decisions.

“The objective is to equip clinicians with a more comprehensive understanding of the brain tumour, which will help them tailor treatments more effectively,” Professor Hondermarck explains.

Collaborating with the Mark Hughes Foundation Centre for Brain Cancer Research, based at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, this project will improve healthcare accessibility and precision for regional, rural, and remote populations through the identification of a non-invasive imaging techniques that, once established, can be easily reproduced in regional imaging clinics and laboratories. This means patients living in regional areas may not need to travel so far to access appropriate health care services to image their cancer to optimise treatment. Additionally, Professor Hondermarck hopes that the project outcomes will lead to the creation of local and regional expertise and translation of the proposed non-invasive MR methods into clinically useful tools, and build capacity for regional multidisciplinary projects. Beyond this project focused on brain cancer, the findings may be applicable to other solid tumours, in particular those of the prostate, breast, stomach and pancreas.

NSWRCRN funding is also supporting a regional PhD student in Professor Hondermark’s team whose project will further investigate the potential utility and clinical implications these MRI methods have for the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours. 

Professor Hondermarck's passion for understanding the complexities of cancer equals his dedication to improve outcomes for those whose lives have been affected by cancer.


The NSW Regional Cancer Research Network is funded by the Cancer Institute NSW through a Translational Cancer Research Capacity Building Grant and established through NSW Regional Health Partners.