Professor Rachel Allavena

Professor and Deputy Head of S

School of Veterinary Science
Faculty of Science
r.allavena@uq.edu.au
+61 7 54601 826

Overview

Professor Rachel Allavena is a specialist veterinary pathologist, multidisciplinary researcher and Deputy Head of School, at the School of Veterinary Science, Gatton. She develops cancer treatments called immunotherapies which wake up the immune system so it fights the cancer. Her unique approach uses pet dogs with natural cancer to conduct the research. This helps the dog and it's family, as well as progressing the development of veterinary treatments and simultaneously advancing human medicine. As Deputy Head of School she aims to support staff and students to make UQ one of the top school's in Australasia, supporting both pets and people. Rachel is a multi-award winning teacher, lecturinging in veterinary pathology, toxicology, animal welfare and laboratory animal science. Her specialist expertise is nationally and internationally recognised in forensics, animal cruelty and toxicology where she acts as an expert witness in criminal and civil legal cases. She is a strong advocate for racing animal welfare, investigating racing animal injury and deaths and conducting research on how to improve animal welfare in sport, society and research. Prof Allavena has an active media profile and has been featured in national and international media including The Conversation, ABC national and regional radio and TV news, commercial and community TV and radio. In 2022-2023 she is a 'Flying Scientist' for Queensland's Office of the Chief Scientist. Rachel really enjoys doing presentations to school students and teachers as well as public outreach events to promote science to the general public. She has presented a TEDx talk on how dogs can help us cure cancer.

Prof Allavena has a PhD in Comparative Medicine from Cornell Univesity in New York, and undertook her pathology specialistation at Ontario Veterinary College. She has worked in drug safety research and development in the pharmaceutical industry in preclinical safety testing and discovery research in the United Kingdom. Her research interests are strongly focused on comparative and translational medicine and animal model validation and development in rodents, dogs and other laboratory animal species. Her major research projects include developing novel cancer immunotherapics and diagnostics for pet dogs naturally suffering from cancer both as a veterinary therapy and comparative model for human cancer. Further, she has extensive research in drivers of koala population decline in SEQLD. She has wide ranging research collaborations specialising in the pathological assessment and study design for animal models in a variety of areas including novel therapeutics, drug safety, toxicology and natural envenomations, biometallic implants, and animal welfare in laboratory animals and domestic species. She is a board certified veterinary anatomic pathologist with the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) and a registered specialist veterinary anatomic pathologist with the Veterinary Surgeon's Board of Queensland through the Australian Veterinary Boards Council. She is the lead diagnostic anatomic pathologist in the UQ School of Veterinary Science Veterinary Laboratory Service, and in her professional capacity she oversees cases for Racing Queensland, Queensland Police and RSPCA Queensland, with a special interest in animal welfare and forensic pathology. She has an extensive successful track record of training anatomic pathologists for American College of Veterinary Pathology board certification. She was awarded a Faculty of Science Teaching Excellence Award in 2015 and a UQ Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning in 2021. She has served as an office holder in the Pathobiology chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists and the Australian Society of Veterinary Pathologists.

Research Interests

  • Novel immunotherapeutic methods for the treatment of cancer in dogs
    We are currently investigating new methods of stimulating the immune system in dogs suffering from a variety of cancers, with the hope of improving survival times and quality of life.
  • ARC Research Hub for Advanced Manufacturing of Medical Devices (2016–2021)
    The project aims to transform Australia's $10.8Bn medical technology sector by developing cost competitive technologies for the rapid production of personalised devices for Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR). To ensure that the Australian industry remains globally competitive, the Hub seeks to concurrently develop materials, technologies and flexible manufacturing processes. The intended outcomes include more efficient design and manufacturing processes and a new range of EVAR products generating increased market share and higher workforce capability. The resulting impacts are better health outcomes, job creation and providing SMEs with new technologies and skills that can be transferred to the manufacture of products for other sectors. https://researchers.uq.edu.au/research-project/29042
  • Morbidity and mortality in SE Queensland Koala populations
    Prof Joerg Henning and I research the major causes of death, injury and disease which are causing a dramatic decline in the SE QLD koala population using pathologic and epidemiologic approaches. We co-developed the medical record database KoalaBASE https://www.koalabase.com.au/Default.aspx used by the Queensland State government Department of Environment and Science to track koala disease and injury through Queensland, monitoring population health and planning interventions to conserve koalas.
  • The pathology of natural tick and snake envenomations in companion animals
    Tick and snake envenomations are major causes of companion animal death in Australia. Owners are devastated when returning home to find a pet gravely ill or dead from snake bite. Treatments are expensive, mortality is high, and little is known about the pathology caused by these venomous animals. My teams analysis looks at pathology and patterns of snake bites in pets.

Research Impacts

Cancer is common and devastating in our pet dogs and causes heartache for their families. As a veterinary pathologist and immunologist my understanding of disease and immunity drives cures for cancer. For many decades, science relied on mice to help us research cancer, but treatments that work fantastic in mice frequently fail in human patients. My research takes a different approach. I use pet dogs with natural cancer and no hope for other treatments to develop new cancer therapies. Dog cancer is similar in appearance, behaviour, genetics and environmental causes to human cancers. I test novel conventional and immunotherapy treatments. Because dog and human cancer is so similar, dogs provide excellent safety and efficacy information on potential new human treatments. My treatments have cured pets, and are now helping human patients. I am proud to receive international philanthropic support from Canine Cancer Alliance https://www.ccralliance.org/ and local support from the Kibble trust and Canine Research Fund.

Dogs and humans share a special bond, and sadly the cancers that dogs and people develop are very similar. My research group looks at several major common and devastating cancers in pet dogs shared with people; brain cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, osteosarcoma and others. We are conducting trials on novel immunotherapies, which aim to 'wake up' the dog's immune system so it realizes the cancer is there and starts to destroy it. Our treatments include injections into the cancer and vaccinations. Our intratumoural injection resulted in 20% of the dogs being cured of their cancer. These dogs were no longer sick, and their cancer melted away. These dogs also had much longer with their families. Two of our patients were told they only had 2-3 months to live but they survived 12 and 17 months. Another dog was given 8 weeks to live but his cancer disappeared and he lived for 3 more years into old age. The data from these dogs has helped start a hospital trial in human patients with advanced cancer. We only use volunteer pet dogs who have naturally developed their cancer and have no hope for other cures. The pets get to stay with their owners throughout their treatment, which we know is safe for them and their families. Because the cancer in these dogs is natural, it interacts with the dog's body and immune system in a very similar way to how a human cancer does damage. For this reason, we are confident about how well our treatments work, and how safe they will be when they are used to treat human patients. By conducting research on pet dogs with natural cancer, we help the dog, its family and the human patients who will benefit from these new therapies. Dogs are man's best friend in so many ways, and they can help us cure cancer too.

We are currently recruiting dogs suffering from osteosarcoma, mast cell tumour (mastocytoma), lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma, malignant melanoma and adenocarcinoma (mammary and apocrine anal sac). Dogs must have a diagnosis and be referred by their current veterinary surgeon to participate in the trial. Please contact PhD student and veterinarians Dr Matthew Weston on matthew.weston@uq.net.au for cancers except osteosarcoma, or Dr Abhi Dadhich aba.dadhich@uq.edu.au if your dog has osteosarcoma.

Along with Prof Joerg Henning, Prof Allavena also co-leaded KoalaBASE and the collaboration has contributed a large body of work analysing the declines of SEQLD's koala population. They have published papers in Scientific Reports, Preventative Veterinary Medicine, and J Comparative Pathology on koala conservation. Prof Allavena is also actively researches envenomation and toxicity in pets, as well as forensic and animal welfare matters, with a focus on racing animals.

Qualifications

  • Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Anatomic Pathology, University of Guelph
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Cornell University
  • Bachelor (Honours) of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Biology, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Supervision

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • The University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science invites exceptional candidates to lead innovative research in small animal medicine. This unique PhD opportunity focuses on developing advanced immunotherapies for canine osteosarcoma.

    Project Highlights: Explore tailored immunotherapies for dogs with osteosarcoma, delving into the tumour microenvironment to identify immunomodulatory targets.

    Research Objectives: Come along with us as we strive to 1) investigate the canine osteosarcoma tumour microenvironment intricacies, 2) Develop cutting-edge immunotherapies for this malignancy, and 3) Identify potential immunomodulatory targets within the tumour microenvironment.

    Your Impact: Become a pioneer in veterinary oncology, contributing to transformative changes. Your work may redefine treatment options, offering hope to countless dogs and their guardians. Be a driving force in shaping the future of canine health.

    Candidate Profile: Seeking a veterinarian with a passion for research, commitment to change, excellent communication skills, and a collaborative spirit. Our candidate should be an Australian-registered veterinary surgeon to run the clinical trial and perform the laboratory analysis. Techniques include histopathology, immunohistochemistry and RNA extraction and sequencing. Please consult the UQ graduate school website for further admissions information.

    Come on board and help us create a brighter, healthier future for our four-legged companions!

    Candidates will need to secure a scholarship if they require living expense support. Please review the Graduate School Website for admission requirements and details.

    Contact: Rachel Allavena on r.allavena@uq.edu.au for more information

  • The University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science invites exceptional candidates to lead innovative research in small animal medicine. This unique opportunity focuses on understanding the molecular intricacies of feline Alimentary Lymphoma (AL) and Lymphoplasmacytic Enteritis (LPE) in our feline friends supervised by Dr Jose Granados Soler and Prof Rachel Allavena.

    Project Highlights: Dive into the fascinating world of feline lymphomas with the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Medicine! We're thrilled to offer a one-of-a-kind PhD/MPhil opportunity for you to explore the mysteries of AL and LPE in our feline friends.

    Objectives: Join us on this adventure as we aim to 1) identify key genes responsible for feline AL and LPE, 2) Uncover the molecular pathways driving the development of these diseases, and 3) Discover potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets that could make a real difference.

    Your Impact: By contributing to this project, you could be instrumental in advancing our understanding of these conditions. Your work may lead to the discovery of biomarkers and therapeutic targets that could improve the lives of cats affected by GI lymphomas.

    Candidate Profile: Calling all passionate veterinarians with a love for feline research, a collaborative spirit, and enthusiasm for bioinformatics and transcriptomic analysis. Our candidate should be an Australian-registered veterinary surgeon to run the clinical trial and perform the laboratory analysis.

    Candidates will need to secure a scholarship if they require living expense support. Please review the Graduate School Website for admission requirements and details.

    Contact: Dr Jose Granados j.granados@uq.edu.au or Prof Rachel Allavena on r.allavena@uq.edu.au for more information

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Veterinary Clinical Sci — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • The University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science invites exceptional candidates to lead innovative research in small animal medicine. This unique PhD opportunity focuses on developing advanced immunotherapies for canine osteosarcoma.

    Project Highlights: Explore tailored immunotherapies for dogs with osteosarcoma, delving into the tumour microenvironment to identify immunomodulatory targets.

    Research Objectives: Come along with us as we strive to 1) investigate the canine osteosarcoma tumour microenvironment intricacies, 2) Develop cutting-edge immunotherapies for this malignancy, and 3) Identify potential immunomodulatory targets within the tumour microenvironment.

    Your Impact: Become a pioneer in veterinary oncology, contributing to transformative changes. Your work may redefine treatment options, offering hope to countless dogs and their guardians. Be a driving force in shaping the future of canine health.

    Candidate Profile: Seeking a veterinarian with a passion for research, commitment to change, excellent communication skills, and a collaborative spirit. Our candidate should be an Australian-registered veterinary surgeon to run the clinical trial and perform the laboratory analysis. Techniques include histopathology, immunohistochemistry and RNA extraction and sequencing. Please consult the UQ graduate school website for further admissions information.

    Come on board and help us create a brighter, healthier future for our four-legged companions!

    Candidates will need to secure a scholarship if they require living expense support. Please review the Graduate School Website for admission requirements and details.

    Contact: Rachel Allavena on r.allavena@uq.edu.au for more information

  • The University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Science invites exceptional candidates to lead innovative research in small animal medicine. This unique opportunity focuses on understanding the molecular intricacies of feline Alimentary Lymphoma (AL) and Lymphoplasmacytic Enteritis (LPE) in our feline friends supervised by Dr Jose Granados Soler and Prof Rachel Allavena.

    Project Highlights: Dive into the fascinating world of feline lymphomas with the University of Queensland's School of Veterinary Medicine! We're thrilled to offer a one-of-a-kind PhD/MPhil opportunity for you to explore the mysteries of AL and LPE in our feline friends.

    Objectives: Join us on this adventure as we aim to 1) identify key genes responsible for feline AL and LPE, 2) Uncover the molecular pathways driving the development of these diseases, and 3) Discover potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets that could make a real difference.

    Your Impact: By contributing to this project, you could be instrumental in advancing our understanding of these conditions. Your work may lead to the discovery of biomarkers and therapeutic targets that could improve the lives of cats affected by GI lymphomas.

    Candidate Profile: Calling all passionate veterinarians with a love for feline research, a collaborative spirit, and enthusiasm for bioinformatics and transcriptomic analysis. Our candidate should be an Australian-registered veterinary surgeon to run the clinical trial and perform the laboratory analysis.

    Candidates will need to secure a scholarship if they require living expense support. Please review the Graduate School Website for admission requirements and details.

    Contact: Dr Jose Granados j.granados@uq.edu.au or Prof Rachel Allavena on r.allavena@uq.edu.au for more information