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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 21 February 2020
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Dr Elisabeth Phillips, Dr Anna Pilbrow, Associate Professor Margaret Currie


Obesity is associated with worse outcomes in patients with breast cancer. One reason for this is that breast cancer cells and fat cells interact at a local level, within the breast tumour. This crosstalk between breast cancer cells and the fat cells intensifies during obesity, and promotes breast cancer cell metastasis and resistance to anti-cancer therapies. MicroRNAs are small regulatory molecules that help turn genes on and off in cancer cells. Within breast tumours, microRNAs target specific genes that, in turn, can alter the breast cancer cell phenotype so they become more metastatic and resistant to anti-cancer therapies.

We have exciting preliminary data indicating that breast cancer cells cultured alongside fat cells have altered microRNA expression profiles. The project will build on this preliminary data in order to discover how these microRNAs may promote breast cancer metastasis and resistance to anti-cancer therapies. Using cutting edge molecular techniques we will (1) discover and validate the down-stream gene targets of the panel of microRNAs and (2) test whether altering microRNA levels can modulate breast cancer cell migration, invasion and response to anti-cancer therapies.

Preferred student expertise

An enthusiastic and capable science student with an interest in molecular and cancer biology. Experience in qPCR and cell culture is preferred, but not essential.

Further information

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2020 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.


Dr Elisabeth Phillips
Tel +64 3 364 0557

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