Dr Francis Hunter


Dr Francis Hunter is a Research Fellow at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, University of Auckland, and an Affiliate Investigator at the Maurice Wilkins Centre. His research focuses on employing cutting-edge genetic technologies to understanding mechanisms of drug and radiation responses in cancer, allowing treatments to become more precise and personalised. Dr Hunter has won a series of domestic and international awards for his work, which include academic and industry partnerships with collaborators in Australia, Canada, Germany and the United States. He is on the Executive Committee for the New Zealand Society for Oncology and was recently the first New Zealander to be appointed to the Associate Member Council of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s largest such organisation.

Research | Current

Use of functional genomics to understand treatment resistance and genetic vulnerabilities in cancer

Funding: Marsden (Royal Society of New Zealand), Maurice Wilkins Centre, Cancer Society of New Zealand, Genomics Into Medicine.



Development of targeted drugs for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

Funding: Cancer Society of New Zealand, Genesis Oncology Trust, Health Research Council, Maurice Wilkins Centre.



Targeting DNA repair and damage response dysfunction in cancer

Funding: Marsden (Royal Society of New Zealand).



Using CRISPR to predict sensitivity to trastuzumab emtansine in metastatic breast cancer

Funding: New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, Health Research Council, Breast Cancer Cure, Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust.



Whole-genome CRISPR screens for radiosensitivity genes in squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck

Funding: Genesis Oncology Trust.


Teaching | Current

MEDSCI 302 - Cancer Biology

Postgraduate supervision

Current students:
Hilary Barker (BHealthSci Hons, co-supervisor)
Nour Ghamri (PhD, Maurice Wilkins Centre scholar, co-supervisor)
Khanh Tran (PhD, Maurice Wilkins Centre scholar, advisor)
Indumati Sharma (PhD, University of Otago, advisor)

Completed students:
Kyla Siemens (MBiomedSc, Fulbright scholar, primary supervisor)
Naveen Joshi (MHSc, advisor)
Indumati Sharma (MSc, University of Auckland partnership appeal scholar, primary supervisor)
Gregoire Quinet (MSc, co-supervisor)
Courtney Lynch (BSc Honours, Kate Edger scholar, primary supervisor)
Yuanye Xu (MBChB research elective, Phyllis Paykel memorial scholar, primary supervisor)


2017: Early Career Research Excellence Award, the University of Auckland

2016: Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Royal Society of NZ

2016: NZBIO Young Bioscientist of the Year

2016: Keith & Meida Hepburn Young Scientist Award, Cancer Society Auckland-Northland

2015: Junior Investigator Award, 14th International Tumor Microenvironment Workshop

2015: Winner, Merck Serono Innovation Cup

2015: American Semi-Finalist, OBR OneStart Accelerator

2014: John Gavin Fellowship, Genesis Oncology Trust

2014: Dean's List, the University of Auckland

2014: Winner, Breast Cancer Startup Challenge

2014: AMRF Travel Grant

2014: William Henry Staunton Memorial Scholarship

2013: Brett Roche Memorial Award, Cancer Society Auckland-Northland

2013: Sir John Logan Campbell Medical Trust Travel Fellowship

2012: FMHS-PGSA Travel Grant

2011: Genesis Oncology Trust Postgraduate Scholarship

2011: The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship (awarded but declined)

2011: The University of Auckland Health Research Doctoral Scholarship

2010: The University of Auckland Masters/Honours/PGDip Scholarship

2010: Biomedical Science Symposium Research Presentation Award

2010: School of Medicine Foundation Oncology Award

2009: Senior Prize in Biological Sciences

2009: FMHS Summer Scholarship

2008: School of Biological Sciences Summer Scholarship

2007: Distinction in Mathematics


Convenor, 2017 annual scientific meeting of the New Zealand Society for Oncology
Grant Committees, Health Research Council, E-Asia
Grant Reviewer, Cancer Society of New Zealand
Reviewer, Cancer Research (AACR)Molecular Cancer Research (AACR), Scientific Reports (NPG)

Areas of expertise

  • Cancer, oncology
  • Cancer drug development
  • Functional genomics
  • Experimental therapeutics
  • Drug resistance
  • Preclinical pharmacology
  • DNA repair and DNA damage response
  • Tumour microenvironment
  • Antibody-drug conjugates
  • CRISPR-Cas9
  • Molecular biology
  • Cell biology

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 504 - Bldg 504
Level B, Room B01
New Zealand

Social links

Web links