Professor Tatjana Stankovic is a cancer geneticist with a clinical background in Haemato-oncology. Her main focus is translation of a high quality basic research into novel therapeutic strategies for cancer patients. This is facilitated by a network of very productive local, national and international collaborations alongside the disease models that her team have developed over the years.
Following her 10-year practice in paediatric Haemato-oncology in former Yugoslavia, she joined Prof Malcolm Taylor’s team (Birmingham, UK) where she was involved in cloning the ATM gene. Following cloning of the ATM gene she provided the first comprehensive report of ATM mutations and ATM genotype/phenotype relationships in the British Isles. Prof Stankovic interest in the wider role of the ATM gene in tumorigenesis subsequently resulted in the discovery that both inherited and acquired ATM mutations are frequent genetic event in CLL, the most frequent leukaemia in the western world. Since the establishment of her group in 2000, Prof Stankovic focus has been the elucidation of DNA damage response (DDR) defective phenotypes in CLL and other haematological malignancies with a view to therapeutic targeting. Her group was instrumental in defining the ATM-null phenotype in leukaemia cells. She discovered that ATM mutant CLL cells exhibit a defect in DNA repair, defective damage induced apoptosis, and altered pro-survival transcription. Consequently, Prof Stankovic group was able to demonstrate selective pressure for clonal evolution in ATM mutant CLL cells and poor response to DNA damaging chemotherapy. Importantly, her group pioneered a topical synthetic lethal approach in haematological malignancies by elucidating and successfully targeting dependencies in ATM null tumour cells. Those dependencies include reliance on PARP and ATR function and Prof Stankovic group showed that both are valid therapeutic target in ATM mutant CLL cells. Finally, such discovery led to design of two clinical trials. Translation of DDR research into clinical trials remains Prof Stankovic ultimate goal.