Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Australian women, and is increasing in incidence. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in women due to onset of metastatic disease, which can occur many years after the initial diagnosis. Thus, a major focus of research must be on understanding the process of tumour progression to metastatic disease, with a view to developing more targeted therapies. Early detection and improvements in therapy are increasing the proportion of patients who survive beyond five years after diagnosis. However, systemic therapies give only a small improvement in survival after five years, indicating that they are not effectively targeting residual disease or dormant tumour cells. We have developed in vitro models of cellular dormancy (or lack thereof) that has been used in functional genomic screen. We have identified new genes and pathways that prevent outbreak of metastatic disease. The hypothesis that we will test is that these genes in tumour cells drive the switch from dormant micrometastases to overt secondary growth and that therapies that target these genes will prolong the survival of women with breast cancer by preventing the outgrowth of micrometastases. We plan to perform detailed functional analysis of identified genes in in vitro cell culture systems and in vivo mouse xenograft models.
Expected outcomes and deliverables
Scholars will gain skills in cell biology, molecular biology and/or animal techniques including tissue culture, immunofluorescence, western blotting, FACS, animal handling and dissections and Xenograft Tumour Models.
- Suitable for students with a background in biology who are looking to undertake Honours or a PhD in the future.