Research interests

The laboratory is interested in understanding the immunopathology of Squamous Cell Carcinoma and novel factors that regulate CD8 T-cell function in the skin. We are also interested in understanding how immunosuppressive drugs lead to tumour formation and affect naïve and memory T-cell function in other contexts, such as skin immunity and bone healing. There are 8 major research themes in the laboratory.

Research projects

  • Novel pathways of CD8 T-cell regulation in the skin
  • The role of CD4/CD8 double-positive T-cells in skin immunity
  • The contribution of T-cell suppression to Squamous Cell Carcinoma development
  • The impact of T-cell suppression on bone healing
  • The testing of novel therapeutic compounds on Squamous Cell Carcinoma growth and survival
  • The impact of immunosuppression on T-cell residency in human skin
  • The role of chemokines in the advancement of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
  • Novel strategies to improve antibody-based therapies for cancer

Researcher biography

James Wells is a Senior Research Fellow at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute and the Director of Immunology at the Dermatology Research Centre in Brisbane, Australia. He studies the adaptive immune system, which plays a key role in both the immediate response to infection and malignancy as well as in the provision of long-term protection against disease re-emergence. James's research team is focused on uncovering novel mechanisms that 'switch off' CD8 T-cell function, the cell type known to seek out and destroy cancer cells. The primary goal of his research is to discover new therapeutic interventions that will 'switch on' CD8 T-cell function within cancer, resulting in both the destruction of disease and the long-term prevention of disease recurrence. The Wells lab has a particular interest in squamous cell carcinoma, conducts basic research using in vivo and in vitro model systems, and validates findings against clinical samples to create the best possible environment to drive successful translational outcomes. The Wells lab collaborates with immunologists, cell biologists, imaging specialists, clinical research teams and industry partners.


Dr Wells undertook his undergraduate degree in immunology at The University of Edinburgh, and then received his PhD from King's College London in 2004, working with Dr Joanna Galea-Lauri and Professor Farzin Farzaneh on DC-based vaccines for cancer therapy. He then under took two postdoctoral positions: firstly with Dr Alistair Noble at the MRC & Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma in London (UK) where he studied vaccine-induced modulation of allergic airway inflammation, and then with Professor Chris Evans at Harvard Medical School, Boston (USA), where he studied the discovery of tumour-rejection antigens for Ewing's Sarcoma Family of Tumours. James was awarded a prestigious 5-year Perpetual Trustees Fellowship in Skin Cancer and was appointed as a Group Leader at the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute in 2011.

Areas of research