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Impact of targeted therapy on the melanoma immune microenvironment

Project Description

The treatment of melanoma is undergoing a fundamental change due to the success of both targeted therapies directed at the MAPK/ERK pathway and immunotherapies. Targeted therapies block essential cell signalling pathways that are required for tumour cell proliferation and survival, while immunotherapies promote the patient’s own immune system to eliminate the cancer cells. Both approaches have their limitations. Targeted therapies initially elicit excellent tumour regression, but this response is generally short-lived due to the development of resistance. In contrast, immunotherapies lead to sustained tumour regression but are only effective in a small number of patients.

The difference in patient responses to these therapies suggests that the two approaches might have complementary roles in cancer treatment, and there are currently several clinical trials combining targeted and immune therapies. Targeted therapies can also enhance or diminish immune responses, thus understanding the effect of targeted therapies on immune cells is essential in advancing the combination of these agents into the clinic. Using melanoma cell lines, mouse models and patient samples, we are currently investigating the direct effect of these targeted therapies on immune cell function and how these targeted therapies impact on current immunotherapies.

This project will initially assess the impact of several targeted therapies as single agents or in combination on tumour immunogenicity and on immune cell proliferation and function

The McArthur lab investigates oncogenes as therapeutic targets for cancer.
By targeting oncogenic signalling in cancer and understanding the impact of this therapy on both the tumour cell and its microenvironment, we aim to develop novel treatment strategies that are durable and prevent therapy resistance. The McArthur laboratory has a specific interest in melanoma, but also investigates ovarian, lung, colorectal and haematological cancers.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne Australia
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to cancer, and home to the largest cancer research group in Australia. Cancer is a complex set of diseases, and modern cancer research institutes such as Peter Mac conduct research covering a diversity of topics that range from laboratory-based studies into the fundamental mechanisms of cell growth, translational studies that seek more accurate cancer diagnosis, clinical trials with novel treatments, and research aimed to improve supportive care.

All students engaged in postgraduate studies at Peter Mac are enrolled in the Comprehensive Cancer PhD (CCPhD) program, regardless of which university they are enrolled through. The program is managed by the Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology (The University of Melbourne), based at Peter Mac.

Tapping into the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience offered by the ten partners of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) alliance, the University of Melbourne’s Comprehensive Cancer PhD Program provides a unique opportunity for multidisciplinary cancer-related PhD candidates to experience clinical and research activities across the alliance.

The Comprehensive Cancer PhD program builds on established conventional training for cancer research students providing a coordinated program of skills, research and career training in addition to usual PhD activities. The program is designed to complement existing PhD activities and provides opportunities to develop professional skills that will help candidates to fulfil their career ambitions.

Funding Notes

All PhD students at Peter Mac must have a scholarship from The University of Melbourne or through another government, trust or philanthropic organisation. Before applying for a scholarship, you must have agreed on a project with an institute supervisor.

For further information about the university application process, see:
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For further information regarding scholarships (both local and international), see:
View Website
Closing dates for applications for scholarships to commence in 2019: Round 1 -31 October 2018; Round 2 - 28 Nov 2018; Round 3 - 20 Feb 2019.

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