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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
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Academic background
Health Sciences, Sciences
Host campus
Master's, Honours
Pathology and Biomedical Science (Christchurch)
Professor Gabi Dachs


Project outline

Lack of oxygen (hypoxia) is a bad prognostic marker for any cancer. Hypoxic tumours respond poorly to chemotherapy and radiation, and even regrow and spread more rapidly after surgery, than less hypoxic tumours. We are interested in the molecular basis of this phenomenon, and how to prevent or modify tumour hypoxia. Our group works closely with oncologists at Christchurch hospital to ensure that our research is relevant.

Oxygen, together with 2-oxoglutarate (from the Krebs cycle), vitamin C (ascorbate) and iron are required for the correct functioning of a large family of enzymes that suppress cancer. When any one of these factors is deficient, tumours take on a more aggressive phenotype. We are investigating this family of enzymes to understand their behaviour under tumour conditions.

Our research to date has shown that many patients with cancer are borderline ascorbate deficient, that the hypoxic response is modified by ascorbate, that epigenetic modifications are associated with ascorbate content in cancer cells, that some brain tumours have low levels of iron, and that patients with colon, breast and brain cancers survive longer if their tumours contain more ascorbate.

We have a range of potential student projects available in this area, and are happy to discuss tailoring a cancer project according to your interest. You may utilise preclinical models or clinical tissue samples, use molecular or cell biology techniques, or employ state-of-the-art analytical analyses, to provide answers to clinical questions.

Preferred student expertise

Enthusiastic and inquisitive student, science or health science background

Related links

This is one of a number of projects on offer for the 2025 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.


Contact name
Professor Gabi Dachs
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