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Therapy-induced senescence and stemness in ovarian cancer

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne

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Prof R. Pearson , Dr K Chan Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Cellular senescence is a stress response characterized by a robust cell cycle arrest and is a brake for malignant transformation. Recent evidence also suggests that senescent cells harbour gene signatures similar to stem cells, which has implications for tumour dormancy and resistance to anti-proliferative cancer therapies.

We have identified putative stemness biomarkers by using transcriptome profiling of oncogene-induced senescent cells. We hypothesise that these biomarkers may also be present in therapy-induced senescent cells and enriched in a therapy-resistant population of cancer cells. 70% of ovarian cancer patients have disease recurrence and emerging evidence suggests that ovarian cancer stem cells contribute to drug resistance and relapse. However, whether therapeutic targeting of ovarian cancer induces senescence and stemness is not well understood.

This project aims to test this hypothesis by utilising quantitative real-time PCR, immunoblotting, immunofluorescence, and flow cytometry techniques to:
1. Characterize the senescence phenotypes of a panel of human ovarian cancer cell lines in response to therapy.
2. Identify the presence of stemness biomarkers in therapy-induced senescent cells.
3. Determine the impact of targeting stemness biomarkers in therapy-induced senescent cells.

Researchers in the Pearson laboratory investigate the molecular basis of the regulation of signalling pathways and their control of cell growth, to understand how deregulation of this process contributes to cancer and how it can be targeted to treat the disease.

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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