Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Professor Richard D’Andrea

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
27 Jan 2023

Study Level
PhD or Masters by Research

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate or International Candidate

Tuition Fees:
All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. International students who receive a stipend are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$29,863 p.a.

About This Project 

Improve acute myeloid leukaemia treatments for children

If you’re motivated to build a career in molecular biology and keen to advance immunotherapy treatments for those with leukaemia, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a cutting-edge project-based PhD with real-world impact within our Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB), in partnership with Charlie’s Rainbow.

Approximately 40 children are diagnosed annually with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in Australia. Intensive chemotherapy remains the mainstay of treatment, but it can have life-long side effects. Unfortunately, approximately 40% of patients relapse; with current treatments, only 30–40% of these become long-term survivors. 

We lack new drug therapies for childhood AML. For high-risk and relapsed patients the only curative treatment is a hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) from a related donor or another stem cell source, and this is associated with a significant risk of treatment-induced complications and treatment failure. A major challenge in treating childhood AML is finding a long-term cure, particularly for those who have highly aggressive or relapsed disease.  

This project will provide the basis for a personalised cellular immunotherapy approach using sub-populations of natural killer (NK) cells from umbilical cord blood that have been matched to the profile of the patient’s AML cells to optimise targeted cell killing in the presence of highly specific therapeutic antibodies.  

You will characterise and expand umbilical cord blood-derived NK cell populations, match these with specific AML specimens and perform assays to improve the efficacy of a targeted therapy using a unique therapeutic antibody. This antibody was designed to engage NK cells for specific AML killing and is currently in clinical trials for adult AML.  

This project harnesses the advantageous immunity attributes of cord blood cells and will define and maximise the therapeutic utility of cord blood NK cell subpopulations to eradicate the leukaemia.

You will join a vibrant research environment with a diverse team of both early career and senior researchers. This team collectively covers all aspects of the proposed research and brings together their combined knowledge of cancer biology, high-level technical expertise, and unique access to resources and patient samples. 

You will have the opportunity to interact regularly with our clinical collaborator, Dr Andrew Moore, Director of Research at Children’s Health Queensland Hospital & Health Service (CHQ) and Director of the Queensland Children’s Tumour Bank, who will provide expertise in childhood AML and AML treatment.

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, you will be involved in all aspects of the project, including laboratory and animal studies, meetings with collaborators, and manuscript preparation. You will also undertake a literature search, data analysis and critique. 

Your studies will equip you with a range of skills that are essential for a cancer researcher. You will be provided high-level training and gain a thorough understanding of haematological cancers. You will learn a range of laboratory techniques and skills, including cell biology, flow cytometry and immune response assays, and working with patient material. 

To help you develop your presentation skills you will report regularly to other CCB and SAHMRI cancer researchers. You will also have the opportunity to present at local, national and international conferences.

This projects offers you a unique and valuable opportunity to interact with researchers at CCB and other Australian sites working at the forefront of cancer research and to interact with fellow clinicians and scientists focused on childhood cancers and haematological malignancies.  

The strong and diverse range of skills you will acquire in laboratory practice, and the expertise and experience you gain, will provide you with excellent career prospects.

Where you’ll be based

You’ll be based at the Centre for Cancer Biology on UniSA’s City West campus. CCB is a medical research institute which carries out a world-class program of innovative research, making breakthrough discoveries in the fundamental causes of cancer, and translating these discoveries into new ways to prevent and treat this group of diseases.

The CCB is an alliance between SA Pathology and the University of South Australia and boasts the largest concentration of cancer research in South Australia, currently hosting 22 full-time research group leaders and their teams.

CCB laboratories carry out research in leukaemia, breast cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, brain cancer and colon cancer, focussing in the specialised areas of gene regulation, molecular signalling, translational oncology and cancer genomics. In addition to these laboratories, our ACRF cancer Genomics Facility is providing access to state-of-the-art genomics research equipment, computing technology and bioinformatics expertise to Adelaide BioMed Precinct and the wider research community.

Translation of new discoveries into clinical practice is strengthened by the co-localisation of the laboratories within a single Institute, as well as its proximity and close collaboration with the Royal Adelaide Hospital, the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and SAHMRI.

The CCB also has alliances with leading pharmaceutical companies to rapidly exploit new discoveries. The Institute aims to be a hub of internationally recognized cancer research excellence, achieving tangible outcomes for cancer patients.

The CCB is a member of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI).

Supervisory Team

Financial Support

This project is funded for reasonable research expenses. Additionally, a living allowance scholarship of $29,863 per annum is available to eligible applicants. Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants will be eligible to receive an increased stipend rate of $46,653 per annum (2023 rates). A fee-offset or waiver for the standard term of the program is also included. For full terms and benefits of the scholarship please refer to our scholarship information for domestic students or international students.

Eligibility and Selection

This project is open to application from both domestic and international applicants.

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria for entrance into a Masters by Research or a PhD. Additionally, applicants must meet the projects selection criteria:
  • Hold a Science degree with Honours in an appropriate field(s)
Applicants who can also demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Advanced laboratory skills and experience with animal studies
All applications that meet the eligibility and selection criteria will be considered for this project. A merit selection process will be used to determine the successful candidate.

The successful applicant is expected to study full-time and to be based at our City West campus in the heart of Adelaide.

Essential Dates 

Applicants are expected to start in a timely fashion upon receipt of an offer.  Extended deferral periods are not available. Applications close on Friday, 27 January, 2023.

How to apply:

Applications must be lodged online, please note UniSA does not accept applications via email.

For further support see our step-by-step guide on how to apply , or contact the Graduate Research team on +61 8 8302 5880, option 1 or email us at You will receive a response within one working day.

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