Biomarkers of human papillomavirus-related cancers

Research Opportunity
PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Project Status
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Alyssa Cornall Personal web page
Suzanne Garland Personal web page

Project Details

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and is also the causative infectious agent of cervical cancers, a proportion of other female anogenital cancers, and the majority of anal cancers in both men and women. HPV-associated cancers disproportionately affect disadvantaged and/or marginalised populations such as Australian Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples (ATSI), women in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), immunocompromised and/or HIV-positive people, and gay and bisexual men (GBM).

Prevention of cervical cancers has been very successful in higher-income countries such as Australia using intensive, technically-demanding screening programs, however these types of screening programs are unfeasible in many low-resource settings, and are more technically difficult for other HPV-related cancers such as anal cancer. The identification and development of simple to implement, sensitive and specific biomarkers for cancer risk in HPV-positive individuals has the potential to significantly decrease the burden of these cancers. Cancer development is preceded by certain molecular changes; these include epigenetic modifications such as methylation of viral gene promoters, and changes to the expression of viral and cellular gene products. This project will involve the characterization of molecular patterns in clinical samples from people with and without HPV-related disease – including cancer - with a view to determining the potential of each marker to contribute to effective screening for people at risk of HPV-related cancer. This project will involve laboratory work in the Molecular Microbiology Department of the Royal Women's Hospital, including nucleic acid purification, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) including real-time PCR, digital droplet PCR, reverse transcriptase PCR to detect messenger RNA (mRNA) transcripts, epigenetic studies including detection and quantification of methylation, and others.

Data entry, database design and data manipulation including the possibility of some basic programming, and statistical analysis in the Stata statistics package, will be important for this project. Other tasks may involve co-ordination of sample collection, receipt and processing. For longer projects (i.e. PhD, Masters), additional tasks may include assay design and development, and application and/or reporting for ethics approvals. The RWH Molecular Microbiology Department is affiliated with the University of Melbourne, the Royal Women's Hospital, the Royal Children's Hospital and Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. We collaborate with numerous other institutions in Australia and internationally including primary health care, research institutions, and private industry including private pathology and biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies, with numerous opportunities for multi-disciplinary engagement.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Cancer in Medicine

Research Opportunities

PhD, Masters by Research, Honours, Master of Biomedical Science
Graduate Research Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other Graduate Research requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

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Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact a supervisor.


Obstetrics and Gynaecology

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