Professor Lai-Ming Ching

BSc, MSc (Hons), PhD


 Professor Lai-Ming Ching obtained her BSc, MSc (Hons), and PhD in Cell Biology all from The University of Auckland. Following a period after graduation at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, and The University of Washington in Seattle, she returned to New Zealand to a position at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre  to investigate the mode of action of novel drugs developed at the Centre. She currently leads the Stromal Targeting Group at the Centre, specialising in approaches that restore the capacity of the normal cells in the tumour stroma to fight the cancer.

Stromal Targeting Agents website

Research | Current

Research Interests

With her background in immunology, Prof Ching specialises in the study of agents that target the cells of the immune system within the tumour stroma. Such agents can have the capacity to change the functional phenotype of the tumour stroma cells from one that helps the cancer to grow, back to one that can attack and destroy the cancer cells. The current areas of focus of her group include:

i. Developing small molecule inhibitors of IDO1, an immune suppressive enzyme that is used by a number of cancer cells, as a mechanism to inactivate the infiltrating cytotoxic effector T cells in the tumour microenvironment.

ii. Exploring the use of STING agonists  developed at the ACSRC such as DMXAA, to re-educate macrophages from a M2 pro-tumour phenotype to M1 anti-tumour phenotype, as a novel approach to treating cancer.

iii. Exploiting transporter proteins expressed on the blood-brain barrier to facilitate the transfer of anti-cancer agents, such as synthetic omega 3-fatty acid derivatives into the brain for  the treatment of brain cancers.

iv. Understanding the escape and resistance mechanisms utilised by cancers cells to overcome and survive hostile conditions encountered in the tumour microenvironment, in particular the role of IMPACT and its regulation of the Integrated Stress Response pathway.

Stromal Targeting Agents website

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Flanagan, J. U., Sun, C., Raven, E. L., & Ching, L.-M. (2017). Discovery and evalution of inhibitors to the immunosuppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1): Probing the active site-inhibitor interactions. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 126, 983-996. 10.1016/j.ejmech.2016.12.029
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Petr Tomek, Brian Palmer, Jack Flanagan
  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Kendall, J. D., Flanagan, J. U., & Ching, L.-M. (2015). Formation of fluorophores from the kynurenine pathway metabolite N-formylkynurenine and cyclic amines involves transamidation and carbon-carbon bond formation at the 2-position of the amine. Biochimica et biophysica acta, 1850 (9), 1772-1780. 10.1016/j.bbagen.2015.04.007
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jack Flanagan, Brian Palmer, Petr Tomek, Jackie Kendall
  • Ching, L.-M., Palmer, B. D., Tomek, P., Flanagan, J. U., & Henare, K. (2015). Abstract 4469: A novel class of inhibitors of the immunosuppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) with potential for the treatment of cancer. Cancer Research. 10.1158/1538-7445.AM2015-4469
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Petr Tomek, Brian Palmer, Kimi Henare
  • Tomek, P., Palmer, B. D., Flanagan, J. U., & Ching, L. (2014). Significance of serine-167 and cysteine-129 residues in the active site of the immune-suppressive enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) for the binding of novel inhibitors. Paper presented at 26th EORTC-NCI-AACR Symposium on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, European Org Res & Treatment Canc, Barcelona, SPAIN. 18 November - 21 November 2014. EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF CANCER. (pp. 1).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Brian Palmer, Petr Tomek
  • Yung, R., Seyfoddin, V., Tijono, S., McGregor, A., & Ching, L. M. (2014). Orthotopic intracranial tumour model in mice for investigating potential therapies for brain cancers. Paper presented at New Zealand Society for Oncology Conference: Oncology in New Zealand; current and future challenges, Tauranga, Auckland. 21 October - 23 October 2014.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sofian Tijono, Vahid Seyfoddin
  • Yung, R., Seyfoddin, V., Guise, C., Tijono, S., McGregor, A., Connor, B., & Ching, L.-M. (2014). Efficacy against subcutaneous or intracranial murine GL261 gliomas in relation to the concentration of the vascular-disrupting agent, 5,6-dimethylxanthenone-4-acetic acid (DMXAA), in the brain and plasma. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol, 73 (3), 639-649. 10.1007/s00280-014-2395-y
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Bronwen Connor, Christopher Guise
  • Fung, S. P. S., Wang, H., Tomek, P., Squire, C. J., Flanagan, J. U., Palmer, B. D., ... Ching, L. M. (2013). Discovery and characterisation of hydrazines as inhibitors of the immune suppressive enzyme, indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1). Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry, 21 (24), 7595-7603. 10.1016/j.bmc.2013.10.037
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jack Flanagan, Sofian Tijono, Brian Palmer, Christopher Squire, Petr Tomek
  • Tijono, S. M., Guo, K., Henare, K., Palmer, B. D., Wang, L.-C. S., Albelda, S. M., & Ching, L.-M. (2013). Identification of human-selective analogues of the vascular-disrupting agent 5,6-dimethylxanthenone-4-acetic acid (DMXAA). Br J Cancer, 108 (6), 1306-1315. 10.1038/bjc.2013.101
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Sofian Tijono, Brian Palmer, Kimi Henare