'Taming' the tumour microenvironment to improve therapeutic response

2021 PhD scholarship opportunity

Supervisors: Prof Matthias Ernst and senior Postdoctoral fellow

Laboratory: Cancer and Inflammation


Solid malignancies always occur and progress amongst a wide collection of surrounding normal cells, including those of endothelial, fibroblastic and haemopoietic origin. Collectively, the latter are referred to as the normal cells of the tumour microenvironment (TME) which in the context of tumour xenograft models can also be regarded as host-derived cells. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that cancer cells coerce and co-opt cells of the TME to further their own survival and proliferation by promoting processes such as angiogenesis, tissue stiffness and reducing effective anti-tumour immune responses. Thus, the TME is now also recognized as one of the major factors limiting therapeutic responses in patients and therefore spurs efforts to understand the mechanism(s) by which cancer cells corrupt the cells of the TME and in turn the effector functions of the TME that impairs therapeutic responses.

This project focuses on two molecules that we have identified for their pivotal contribution in the TME to enable tumour progression and limit therapeutic responses: A myeloid cell-specific tyrosine kinase called HCK and a soluble mediator, called interleukin-11. The project will aim to better define the molecular roles either of these two molecules play (the actual project will focus on one only) and explore clinically relevant approaches to inhibit their biological activities. The project will include state-of-the-art molecular biology approaches and exploit sophisticated microscopy, fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and preclinical models of solid malignancies.

Discover more about La Trobe University’s PhD program and this opportunity or contact our Student Co-ordinator via students@onjcri.org.au

Application deadlines:
International students – 30 September 2020
Domestic students – 31 October 2020