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RNA Methylation in normal and malignant blood development

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne

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Dr L. Kats Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

As is the case with DNA and histones, RNA can also be modified and indeed more than 100 chemical groups that decorate all four canonical RNA nucleotides have been described. While these modifications undoubtedly carry genetic information, their study has lagged far behind that of DNA and histone modifications and their functional relevance remains largely unknown. Methylation of the N6 position of adenosine (m6A) is the most common alteration on eukaryotic messenger RNA (mRNA).

Recent studies have begun to identify writers, readers and erasers of this epigenetic mark and have demonstrated that it has broad physiological roles in splicing, RNA stability and microRNA processing. As m6A does not affect Watson-Crick base pairing, specialised sequencing methods are required to determine its precise localisation in the genome.

We are investigating how regulators of the m6A pathway control RNA methylation, gene expression and cellular behaviour in normal and malignant blood cells.

The Kats laboratory is interested in developing new therapeutic strategies for aggressive blood cancers. We use advanced genetic tools and small molecule inhibitors to uncover oncogene dependencies and synthetic-lethal interactions in genetic contexts that occur commonly in human cancer.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne 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.

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:

For further information regarding scholarships (both local and international), see:
Closing dates for applications for scholarships to commence in 2020: Round 1 -31 October 2019; Round 2 - 31 Jan 2020; Round 3 - 15 May 2020.
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