Dr Ashray Gunjur
Clinical Research Training Fellow
Ashray is a medical oncologist from Melbourne, Australia, currently undertaking a clinical PhD investigating the interplay between the gut microbiome and responses and/or toxicity to immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies.
- Clinical- Ashray is a qualified specialist medical oncologist, having completed his undergraduate medical training (University of Melbourne 2012) and vocational specialist training (Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, 2020) in Melbourne, Australia. This included a 1-year clinical trials fellowship at Austin Health, Australia, with a focus on genito-urinary and central nervous system cancers. He holds a specialist license to practice medical oncology in Australia, and general medical registration in the United Kingdom.
- Bioinformatics- Ashray’s PhD involves high-throughput analysis of next generation sequencing datasets, downstream statistical and machine learning (unsupervised and supervised) analysis. As such, Ashray is proficient in R (advanced), Python (intermediate) and Unix Shell (intermediate) languages. He has undertaken numerous formal training certificates, including completing the Datacamp “Data Scientist with R” career track, and the Accelerate Science / Cambridge Spark “Data Science for Science Residency”.
- Research- Concurrent with his clinical training, Ashray has a longstanding commitment to clinical research, nurtured since medical school. He has authored 30+ scientific manuscripts and served as a peer reviewer for prestigious journals such as “British Journal of Cancer”. He has also completed an editorial internship at The Lancet (London, United Kingdom), and a Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine with distinction (James Cook University, Australia), with a focus on microbiology and biostatistics.
- Leadership- Ashray currently serves on the scientific advisory committee of the Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO), having been recognised as a future leader in the field by being awarded a prestigious Hubert Stuerzl Memorial Prize in 2019.
Predictive biomarkers for immune checkpoint inhibitor response / toxicity are currently lacking- It is not an overstatement to say that cancer immunotherapy, in particular immune checkpoint inhibitors, have revolutionised cancer care over the past decade, and now offer great hope to patients with a variety of solid-organ malignancies. However, unfortunately responses to these powerful therapies are highly variable, and toxicities are both capricious and potentially life-threatening. Better biomarkers to predict response and toxicity are urgently needed.
There is now clear evidence of a link between the ‘gut microbiome’ and outcomes to immune checkpoint inhibitors- Pivotal research over the last 5-years have shown a clear causal link between the composition of gut microbiota in a patient and their subsequent response to cancer immunotherapy. However, unfortunately consistent taxonomic biomarkers for response and toxicity have been elusive, possibly due to significant methodological and population differences between studies. Additionally, the mechanisms for this relationship are still being defined.
As such, Ashray’s PhD involves evaluating large clinical, metabolite and gut microbiome annotated datasets to find reproducible associations between gut microbial taxa and cancer patient outcomes. Ashray and his colleagues hope that this research might lead to new understanding of the ‘link’ between the gut microbiome and immune checkpoint inhibitor response / toxicity, and potentially provide the means to predict, or even improve these outcomes.
Ashray is very grateful to be supported by a Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre Clinical Research Training Fellowship and a John Monash Scholarship to undertake this work.