Student Projects

Somatic changes to mitochondria DNA in cancer development

Project Supervisor/s

This project is suitable for Honours, Masters, MPhil, MD or PhD student.


Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles that are critical for energy production and cell metabolism. Mitochondria are located in the cytoplasm of cells and have their own DNA that is circular and approximately 17 kb. Aberrant mitochondrial function is a key component of cancer. Next generation sequencing has allowed researchers to characterise the somatic landscape of cancer genomes, which has led to the discovery of biomarkers that may be predictive and prognostic to targeted therapies. However, an area that is understudied is the prevalence of somatic mutations in mitochondria and their association with cancer development.


Aim 1 – Analyse whole genome sequencing from multiple cancer types to quantify mitochondria and characterise somatic mutations

Aim 2 – Develop computational approaches to study mitochondrial genomes using long read DNA sequencing. This will involve mutation calling, quantification, assembly and methylation profiling

Aim 3 – Determine how heterogenous mitochondria populations are within cancer samples and how they change overtime.


This project will be conducted within the Medical Genomics group at QIMR Berghofer, and will work closely with the Genome Informatics group and have opportunities to collaborate with clinical collaborators. This is a bioinformatics project that will involve the analysis of large cancer genomic datasets, therefore knowledge of python and R is preferable.

Project Potential

This work will provide insights into how mitochondria contribute to cancer development.  This is an exciting project that is expected to result in significant new knowledge. We anticipate this work will lead to multiple publications and conference speaking opportunities.

To apply for this project, please contact the project supervisor/s

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