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A novel personalised medicine approach for the treatment of the asbestos-related cancer, malignant mesothelioma

Project Description

In the Harvey laboratory, we study mechanisms that control organ size during development and how deregulation of these processes contributes to human cancer.

Malignant mesothelioma is a cancer of the lining of internal organs, which can be caused by asbestos. Mesothelioma is currently treated with conventional chemotherapeutics, which are largely ineffective and lead to severe side-effects. Therefore, new treatment modalities are urgently needed that exploit knowledge of the precise genetic deficiencies in malignant mesothelioma (“personalised medicine”).

The genetic mutations that are associated with mesothelioma have been characterized. Of importance for this project, about half of all mesothelioma cases are caused by mutations in the NF2 gene. NF2 encodes a protein that regulates the Hippo pathway, a conserved organ size control pathway. The Hippo pathway regulates growth via a transcriptional coactivator, YAP. We hypothesize that loss of NF2 in mesothelioma leads to constitutive YAP activation and, consequently, excessive cellular proliferation.

In this project, the student will test the YAP dependency of mesothelioma cell lines. To this end, the student will:
(1) Carry out genetic characterization of mesothelioma cell lines
(2) Apply both genetic and pharmacological (small molecule) approaches to block YAP activity.
(3) Carry out cellular toxicity assays.

For this project, we are looking for a student with a keen interest in translational cancer research. The student will gain experience in a range of biochemical, genomic and cell culture techniques.

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:
View Website

For further information regarding scholarships (both local and international), see:
View Website
Closing dates for applications for scholarships to commence in 2017: Round 1 -31 October 2016; Round 2 - 18 Dec 2016.

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