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Development of bioengineered 3D tumour models for preclinical breast cancer research

School of Biomedical Sciences

Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project


3D organoid model technologies have led to the development of innovative tools for precision medicine in cancer treatment. Yet, the lack of resemblance to native tumours, and the limited ability to produce organoids and test drugs in a high-throughput mode, have limited translation to practice. This project will progress organoid models by using advanced tissue engineering technologies and high-throughput 3D bioprinting to recreate ‘mini-tumours-in-a-dish’ from a patient’s own tumour cells, and study the effects of various components of the tumour microenvironment on drug response.
In better modelling the clinical context in vitro, drug candidates will be tested to better support personalised clinical decisions in breast cancer, the second most common cancer in women in Australia.

The project aims to develop novel preclinical models of breast cancer research and thus focus on the following three main research axes:
1) Develop new hydrogel systems for breast cancer 3D organoid culture and optimise printability on a high-throughput bioprinting platform.
2) Collect breast cancer tumour tissues from consented patients undergoing tumour resections in Brisbane and optimise tissue processing for bioprinting on the high-throughput platform. We will characterize the resulting bioengineered breast tumour organoids and do drug testing, to match the right patient with the right therapy.
3) Develop a tissue-engineered preclinical bone tumour microenvironment and co-culture with breast tumour organoids to screen which patients exhibit high potential to metastasise to bone, informing whether progression to an incurable stage of the cancer may happen. Drug testing will further help to indicate which clinical drug regimen is best for patients with existing metastases.

Skills, techniques and other learning opportunities offered:
• Hydrogel manufacture
• Bioprinting
• Tumour tissue processing
• 2D and 3D cell culture techniques
• Primary human cell culture
• Organoid models
• Cell proliferation and molecular analysis – drug responses
• Exposure to clinicians
• Exposure to industry partners

Eligible candidates considered should be:
• Passionate about biomedical cancer research
• Self-motivated, able to plan and prioritise work to meet deadlines
• Able to take initiative and undertake complex problem-solving activities
• Able to work in a multidisciplinary team environment including academics, clinicians and industry partners
• Interested in learning and utilising a large range of laboratory-based techniques merging dissimilar fields (biomaterials, tissue engineering, cancer research)
• Excellent in verbal and written communication skills

During the course of this PhD, the candidate will perform cutting-edge preclinical research and development, driving a highly interdisciplinary project in the field of cancer research. This includes cross-fertilising with the fields of tissue engineering, materials science, bioprinting and preclinical science, ultimately addressing a significant gap in preclinical cancer models. Via this project, the successful candidate will not only advance knowledge in breast cancer but will also contribute to develop novel bioengineered platforms advancing the cancer research field in general. High-quality publications will be expected from this project and travel to national and international conferences and lab visits will be available to the successful candidate.

This project will be based at the picturesque Translational Research Institute (TRI) in Woolloongabba (QUT),, which houses all the equipment and facilities required to perform this project. TRI is an Australian-first initiative of translational medical research located at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) campus and is a unique facility with a strong focus on translational cancer research that groups top researchers from the University of Queensland, QUT (IHBI), Mater Medical Research Institute and the PAH. The TRI building houses more than 500 researchers and comprises four floors of laboratories with first-class cell culture/analysis equipment and animal facilities.

Submit your application to Dr Nathalie Bock, with the following subject: ‘PhD-AQIRF066-2019RD2 – Your Surname’
Your application must include:
• A cover letter by the applicant (max 1 page)
• An up-to-date CV indicating previous lab experience and skills
An interview will be organized should you be shortlisted and more details will be given in how to apply for the competitive scholarship.

• A QUT Stipend Scholarship, tax exempt and indexed annually, $28,092 per annum for a period of 3 years will be provided to the successful applicant and the possibility for a 6-month extension.
• For international students, you will also receive a QUT Tuition Fee Waiver Scholarship.
• The opportunity to work in a REAL WORLD University (, named ‘Top Young University in Australia’ (
• The opportunity to work in a world-class multidisciplinary institute and international team

Funding Notes

Australian and International applicants are eligible to apply. International students must meet all entry requirements for QUT listed here View Website

• Recently completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) with first-class Honours (H1) or overseas equivalent
• Over 3 months experience in a science laboratory
• Strong academic performance
• Ability to work Full-Time

• Master of Science (MSc) with a significant research component
• >1 research publication in a scientific peer-reviewed journal
• Undergraduate in Biomedical Engineering or Biology



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