Understanding the cause of human papillomavirus (HPV)-negative cervical cancers in Australian women

Research Opportunity
PhD students
Number of Honour Places Available
Department / Centre
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Royal Women’s Hospital
Primary Supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Gerald Murray gerald.murray@unimelb.edu.au
Co-supervisor Email Number Webpage
Dr Sam Phillips sam.phillips@mcri.edu.au
Prof Suzanne Garland suzanne.garland@thewomens.org.au

Summary The vast majority of cervical cancers are attributed to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. However, a small percentage of cancers are HPV-negative. The project aims to identify the causes for HPV-negative cancers and to identify molecular targets that can be used for diagnosis.

Project Details

Background. Cervical cancer the fourth most common tumour in women worldwide. With the vast majority of these cancers attributed to infection with high-risk HPV genotypes, many countries are using prophylactic HPV vaccines to prevent infection, as well as HPV DNA detection assays as the primary screening tool replacing Pap cytology. However, this screening method may miss a small percentage of cervical cancer cases seemingly not caused by HPV. We require a better understanding of these HPV-negative cancers to identify DNA-based targets for diagnosis.

The Project. While HPV-negative cervical cancers constitute approx. 7% of all cervical cancers, previous studies have identified that a proportion of these apparently HPV-negative cancers do in fact contain HPV DNA from genotypes not commonly tested, or, of known genotypes that contain DNA mutations in the L1/L2 and E6/E7 genes (commonly used as diagnostic targets). The project aims to identify HPV negative cancers among recently diagnosed cervical cancers in Australia, and to uncover the causes for the underlying neoplasia. This will be used to inform the expansion of current molecular diagnostic targets.

The project is part of a collaboration with research institutes and hospitals across the Eastern coast of Australia. It will involve the use of laboratory based molecular techniques and bioinformatic analysis of next generation sequencing data.

The PhD candidate. The successful applicant should have an Honours or Masters degree in Microbiology, Molecular Biology or Bioinformatics. Experience in, or willingness to learn, laboratory-based molecular biology and Bioinformatic techniques is necessary. They will need to be self-motivated, have good time management, and have the ability to work both in a team environment or independently.

Supervision team. This project will be conducted in the Centre for Women’s Infectious Diseases located in the Royal Women’s Hospital/University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The laboratory is a multidisciplinary team that excels in research into HPV.

Financial support. An initial first year PhD scholarship is available for the successful applicant. The successful applicant will also be encouraged to apply for an Australian Research Training Scholarship for the remainder of their project.

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology, Cancer

School Research Themes

Cancer in Medicine, Women's Health

Research Opportunities

PhD students
Students who are interested in joining this project will need to consider their elegibility as well as other requirements before contacting the supervisor of this research

Graduate Research application

Honours application

Key Contact

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

Department / Centre

Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Research Node

Royal Women’s Hospital

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