Associate Professor Barbara Rolfe specialises in the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer and the application of nanomaterials for drug delivery

​Associate Professor Barbara Rolfe is an immunologist and cell biologist, whose major research interests centre on the role of the innate immune system in cancer, and how the immune response to nanoparticles influences their in vivo fate. Her research has led to the identification of a previously unknown mechanism by which dysregulation of the immune system contributes to cancer development and growth, and demonstrated an important role for complement proteins in promoting tumour growth via regulation of immunosuppressive innate immune cells. Her research has also provided information regarding the immune response to nanomaterials and the influence of physicochemical characteristics on biodistribution and cellular uptake.

Ongoing research is focussed on gaining a better understanding of the role of complement proteins in tumour growth, developing novel immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer, and investigating the application of nanomaterials for targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs.

​After receiving a PhD in Immunology from The University of Queensland, Rolfe continued her research on the immunology of pregnancy and cancer within the Department of Surgery (UQ), before taking up a position in the Centre for Research in Vascular Biology (School of Biomedical Sciences) to investigate the impact of inflammation on smooth muscle cell biology and its contribution to vascular disease. In 2006, Rolfe moved to the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology where she has taken advantage of the multi-disciplinary environment to extend her research into the field of biotechnology and the application of nanomaterials for diagnostic imaging and targeted drug delivery. She has also pursued her interest in the role of the innate immune system in disease, advancing understanding of the contribution of myeloid cells to fibrotic tissue and the role of complement proteins in cancer.


​Throughout her career Associate Professor Rolfe has received grants from NHMRC, Heart Foundation, Cancer Council and National Breast Cancer Foundation. In the last 5 years she has been the lead Chief Investigator on grants from the Mark Hughes Foundation, NHMRC and industry, and is a Chief Investigator on the ARC Research Hub for Advanced Manufacture of Targeted Radiopharmaceuticals and an ARC Linkage Grant.

Key Publications

​1.    Nabizadeh J, Manthey HM, Steyn F, Akhir NF, Chen W, Wadiapradja, A, Boyle GM, Taylor SM, Woodruff TM, Rolfe BE (2019).  Opposing Roles for Complement C5a Receptors, C5aR1 and C5aR2, in a mouse model of melanoma. FASEB J 33, 11060-11071.
2.    Nabizadeh, J. A., Manthey, H. D., Steyn, F. J., Chen, W., Widiapradja, A., Md Akhir, F. N., Boyle, G. M., Taylor, S. M., Woodruff, T. M., and Rolfe, B. E. (2016) The Complement C3a Receptor Contributes to Melanoma Tumorigenesis by Inhibiting Neutrophil and CD4+ T Cell Responses. J Immunol 196, 4783-4792.
3.    Rolfe, B. E., Blakey, I., Squires, O., Peng, H., Boase, N. R., Alexander, C., Parsons, P. G., Boyle, G. M., Whittaker, A. K., and Thurecht, K. J. (2014) Multimodal polymer nanoparticles with combined 19F magnetic resonance and optical detection for tunable, targeted, multimodal imaging in vivo. J Am Chem Soc 136, 2413-2419.
4.    Manthey, H. D., Thomas, A. C., Shiels, I. A., Zernecke, A., Woodruff, T. M., Rolfe, B., and Taylor, S. M. (2011). Complement C5a inhibition reduces atherosclerosis in ApoE-/- mice. FASEB J 25, 2447-2455.
5.    Mooney, J. E., Rolfe, B. E., Osborne, G. W., Sester, D. P., van Rooijen, N., Campbell, G. R., Hume, D. A., and Campbell, J. H. (2010) Cellular plasticity of inflammatory myeloid cells in the peritoneal foreign body response. Am J Pathol 176, 369-380.