Studying the molecular characteristics of metastatic clones

2021 Honours opportunity

Supervisors: Dr Delphine Merino and Dr Jean Berthelet

Laboratory: Tumour Progression and Heterogeneity

Subjects prerequisites: MED3LAB or MED3PRJ

Breast cancer is a highly heterogeneous disease. Many studies have shown that patient tumours are composed of a large number of cells or group of cells called ‘clones’ that are genetically diverse. This high level of heterogeneity represents a major obstacle for cancer therapy, some of these cells may have a survival advantage to colonise vital organs and resistant standard treatments, leading to disease recurrence.

To colonise distant organs, tumour cells must intravasate into blood vessels as circulating tumour cells, extravasate and survive in their new micro-environment. One of our previous studies showed that only a minor proportion of cells present in the primary tumour will survive and form lethal metastases. Breast cancers are known to preferentially colonise lungs, bones, lymph nodes, liver, brain and ovaries, and how the microenvironments of these different organs impact on clonal selection remains unclear.

Our laboratory aims at understanding the biologic properties of metastatic clones. We would like to understand how they differ between different metastatic sites and resist current treatments. Therefore, we are using patient samples, cell lines and a new technology called ‘cellular barcoding’ to label cancer cells from patient samples and follow their behaviour. Using sequencing at bulk or single cell level we are planning to identify the pathways involved in metastatic spread and drug resistance, to ultimately propose better treatments for patients with breast cancer.


How do I apply?
Please complete and return your Ranked Entry Project Selection Form (available in the 2021 projects bookletby 5pm Friday 6 November 2020 to

How do I find out more?
Discover more about La Trobe University’s School of Molecular Sciences/LIMS Honours opportunities
Contact the LTU Honours Coordinator, Dr Ivan Poon
Phone: 03 9479 6488