Associate Professor Barbara Rolfe is an immunologist and cell biologist, specialising in cancer immunotherapy and the application of nanomaterials for drug delivery

Associate Professor Barbara Rolfe's research focuses on the role of myeloid cells and the innate immune system in responses to nanomaterials, wound healing and cancer. Specific areas of interest include biomedical applications of nanomaterials and how the immune response to nanoparticles influences in vivo fate, and the application of complement-targeting drugs as cancer therapeutics. In these areas, her work has advanced understanding of the contribution of myeloid cells to fibrotic tissue, mechanisms by which nanomaterials are taken up by cells, and the role of complement proteins in vascular disease and cancer; the latter leading to discovery of a previously unidentified role for C3a and its receptor (C3aR) in promoting tumour growth.

Associate Professor Rolfe's current research program focuses on the role of the innate immune system in disease; the mechanisms by which potent inflammatory mediators regulate the anti-tumour response, translating this discovery into novel therapeutic approaches for cancers such as melanoma.

​Since moving to the AIBN, she has taken advantage of the multi-disciplinary environment and the opportunity to extend her research interests into the field of nano-biotechnology and drug delivery.

Associate Professor Rolfe has 80 publications, including 70 refereed primary articles, 6 book chapters, 3 invited reviews, and 1 patent relating to complement therapeutics in cancer.


​In collaboration with Assoc Prof Trent Woodruff (School of Biomedical Sciences), Dr Glen Boyle (QIMR), Professor Ruben Pio (University of Navarra, Spain) and Prof Andrew Barbour (School of Medicine, PAH), Associate Professor Rolfe is using mouse tumour models and small peptide agonists and antagonists to investigate the role of complement components C3a and C5a in tumour growth.  She is also working with Dr Martina Jones and Professor stephen Mahler to develop monoclonal antibodies to complement receptors.  In collaboration with Prof Andrew Whittaker and Assoc Prof Kris Thurecht, she is investigating the biological response to polymeric nanoparticles, and their application for diagnostic imaging and drug delivery.  


Throughout her research career Associate Professor Rolfe has held 6 NHMRC, 4 National Heart Foundation and 4 Queensland Cancer Council grants.  In the last 5 years, she has received grants from National Breast Cancer Foundation (2014-15), Queensland Cancer Council (2014-15), NHMRC (2011-13 and 2016-2019) and UQ CIEF (2014). 

Key Publications

Nabizadeh J, Manthey H, Steyn F, Chen W, Md Akhir F, Widiapradja A, Boyle GM, Taylor SM, Woodruff TM, Rolfe BE (2016). The complement C3a receptor contributes to melanoma tumourigenesis by inhibiting neutrophil and CD4+ T Cell responses. J Immunol. 196:4783-92.

Rolfe B, Blakey, I, Squires, O; Peng H, Boase N, Alexander C Parsons P, Boyle G, Whittaker, A, Thurecht K (2014). Multi-modal polymer nanoparticles with combined 19F magnetic resonance and optical detection for tunable, targeted, multimodal imaging in vivo.  J Am Chem Soc. 136:2413-9.

Coles D, Rolfe B E, Boase NRB, Veedu R N, Thurecht KJ (2013). Aptamer-targeted hyperbranched polymers: Towards greater specificity for tumours in vivo. Chem. Commun., 49: 3836-8. 

Manthey HD, Thomas AC, Shiels IA, Zernecke A, Woodruff TM, Rolfe B*, Taylor SM* (2011). Complement C5a inhibition reduces atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mice. FASEB J. 25(7):2447-55.

Mooney JH, Rolfe BE, Osborne GW, Sester DP, van Rooijen N, Campbell GR, Hume DA, Campbell JH (2010). Cellular Plasticity of Inflammatory Myeloid Cells in the Peritoneal Foreign Body Response. Am J Pathol 176: 369-380.