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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 23 February 2018
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Associate Professor Gabi Dachs, Professor Margreet Vissers


Recent intriguing discoveries have re-focused attention on the role of vitamin C (ascorbate) in cancer growth and spread. It is now well established that this vitamin is required for optimal activity of many enzymes, including those that are intimately involved in cancer progression, such as angiogenesis and metastasis. Specifically, members of this enzyme family control the transcription factor, hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), which is the master regulator in solid tumours leading to cancer progression and treatment resistance.

Our data in vitro, in vivo and clinical tumours have demonstrated an inverse relationship between ascorbate and HIF-1 levels and activity. Our recent pilot data in a mouse model indicated that breast tumours metastasised more frequently in animals that are kept on suboptimal levels of ascorbate compared to animals on optimal ascorbate.

This project will further explore the relationship between ascorbate status and metastatic spread in a mouse model with breast cancer. We hypothesise that increasing ascorbate levels will reduce cancer spread.

The student will utilise the Gulo mouse, which is a good model of the human ascorbate dependency condition as these mice have the same biosynthetic enzyme mutated as humans, and are thus unable to produce their own ascorbate. Ascorbate status will be manipulated by providing drinking water with varying levels of ascorbate and /or by daily injections with 1g/kg ascorbate. Breast cancer will be induced by injection with EO771 mammary carcinoma cells. Mice will be sacrificed at tumour endpoint, and tissues, tumours and blood harvested for analysis. Protein levels of the HIF-1 pathway and metastasis factors will be quantified using Western blotting and ELISAs.

This study will provide valuable data to the debate on the worth of ascorbate in cancer treatment, and may lead to changes in clinical advice to cancer patients.

Preferred student expertise

We are looking for a bright, enthusiastic and meticulous student with an interest in cancer biology to join our multidisciplinary cancer research and biochemistry groups.

Further information

This project is one of the many available for the 2018 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.


Associate Professor Gabi Dachs
Tel 03 364 0544

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