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Testing the function of immune suppressive cytokines and cells in bone metastasis

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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Assoc Prof B Parker Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Bone metastasis is a common occurrence in breast and prostate cancer that leads to patient morbidity and, in many cases, mortality. Treatments that target bone metastases long-term are lacking and, to date, immunotherapeutics including checkpoint inhibitors have met with underwhelming responses. In fact, our laboratory has discovered that immune control of tumour growth in bone is unique and this has highlighted the need for bone-specific studies that dissect the tumour cytokines that lead to immune suppression by altering the balance of immune suppressor and effector cells that promote cancer outgrowth. This is an extremely understudied area of research.

This project will measure and manipulate immune suppressive cytokines (including IL-10), checkpoint proteins (such as PD-1/L1) and immune suppressor cells (such as regulatory T cells) in syngeneic mouse models of breast and prostate cancer to identify prognostic and therapeutic opportunities to predict, prevent or target bone metastasis. This will be linked to analysis of primary and metastatic patient tissues to validate findings in mouse models. Techniques for this project include cell culture, CRISPR-cas9 gene editing, RNA extraction and analysis (using quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR)), western blotting, flow cytometry, multiplex cytokine analysis, multiplex immunohistochemistry, induction and monitoring of tumorigenesis and metastasis in vivo, immune activation and cytotoxicity assays.
This project will be based in the Parker laboratory:

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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