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Understanding the mechanisms of neuroendocrine tumour response to radionuclide therapy

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, University of Melbourne

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Prof R Hicks , Assoc Prof C Cullinane Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Neuroendocrine tumours (NET) represent a heterogeneous group of tumours that arise in specialized cells found throughout the body. Peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) is an effective treatment modality for NET that involves the use of radiolabelled peptides to target the somatostatin receptor which is widely expressed on neuroendocrine cells. Despite its encouraging clinical activity, significant variability in tumour response to PRRT has been observed. These findings highlight the need to understand the mechanisms underlying tumour response to PRRT in order to identify better methods to select patients for treatment and to develop novel combination therapies to overcome resistance.

The aims of the project are to investigate the determinants of response to PRRT and develop novel combination regimens of PRRT and drugs to further enhance tumour response.

The project will employ a wide range of in vitro and in vivo techniques including cell culture, organoid culture, molecular biology, preclinical models of cancer and imaging.

The Hicks laboratory uses genomic approaches and in vivo imaging of tumour biology in models of human cancer to develop new therapies and improve imaging technologies, for application in cancer patients. Research directions include:
1. Genomic studies in neuroendocrine tumour
2. Understanding the biology of Merkel cell carcinoma
3. Novel therapeutic strategies for neuroendocrine tumour

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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