Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Hugo Albrecht

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
27 Jan 2023

Study Level

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 

Develop better treatment options for those with ovarian cancer

Seeking to make a difference in the field of molecular biology and interested in improving outcomes for those with ovarian cancer? The University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a pioneering project-based PhD with significant societal impact within our UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences Unit.

There are about 240,000 new cases of ovarian cancer per year and currently no effective screening strategy in place to systematically detect it in the early stages. About 80% of all patients will go on to have advanced stage III or IV cancers, leading to an overall survival rate of less than 50%. 

Current treatment includes cytoreduction by abdominal surgery combined with chemotherapy. Major issues are dose limiting adverse effects of chemotherapy and resistance, both leading to a high mortality rate. 

Our recent findings revealed concurrently overexpressed G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and kinases in ovarian cancer tissues. A new treatment paradigm could very well be the systematic use of GPCRs as molecular entry points to specifically deliver kinase inhibitors into ovarian cancer cells with engineered nanoparticles. 

We have previously used the gastrin-releasing peptide receptor, which is known to be expressed in many different cancer types (including some ovarian cancers), to successfully demonstrate receptor mediated anticancer drug delivery and cancer cell killing. We hypothesise that ovarian cancer is susceptible to engineered drug carriers, so delivering pan-kinase inhibitors, using overexpressed GPCRs as molecular entry sites, and pH responsive nanoparticles will provide higher intracellular drug release rates and concentrations. 

In this project, we aim to 1) design novel polymer-based, biodegradable and easy to synthesise, pH responsive drug carriers for GPCR mediated delivery and endosomal release of pan-kinase inhibitors, 2) evaluate the response of various human ovarian cancer cell lines to kinase inhibitor loaded nanoparticles using cancer cell cultures as in vitro models, to demonstrate nanoparticle uptake and cell killing, and 3) investigate the potential treatment in murine xenograft models (subcutaneous and intraperitoneal), to obtain proof of concept for our antitumour strategy.

You will be located within the UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences Unit and integrated into a highly experienced team with expertise in genome-wide gene expression analysis, biochemistry and receptor biology, endosome cell biology, chemistry, polymer science, drug formulation, drug discovery and oncology. 

Most of the experimental work will be carried out in the Bradley Building, which houses advanced world-class facilities. A state-of-the-art Animal Facility (UAF) will be used for this work, including the advanced whole animal luminescence and fluorescence imaging facility. Experience gained in this environment will give you a competitive edge in the job market. 

What you’ll do

In this project-based research degree, with training you will carry out large-scale gene expression analysis, receptor binding and cell-based assays, cell signalling, polymer-based nano-formulation, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and xenograft animal models. This formidable set of skills will establish you well for a successful career in science.

The project will involve collaborating with the research teams of Prof Eric Kuebler (FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern, Switzerland) and Prof Med Viola Heinzelmann (Women's Clinic and Gynecological Oncology, University Hospital Basel, University of Basel), both in Basel, Switzerland. There is a strong possibility of undertaking an internship there to conduct studies using their large collection of ovarian tumour samples and cutting-edge molecular biology technologies.

We will also encourage and support you to attend and present your work at national and international conferences.

Where you’ll be based

You will be based in the UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences Unit. We address critical and emerging health needs while improving the quality of patient care. We are at the forefront of clinical discovery through our research into causes and cures of disease. Every day, our researchers investigate the best ways to help improve patient outcomes and create positive change in the health industry.  

We present our insights to the people who need it most, through our collaborations and partnerships with local industry and community, government and research institutions worldwide.  Our clinical and health science programs encompass pharmacy, nursing and midwifery, laboratory medicine, biomedical sciences, and nutrition and food sciences.  

UniSA’s world-class facilities provide a seamless transition from study to career, with our specialist clinics providing hands-on experience to students while serving the local community. UniSA Clinical and Health Sciences is a community of ideas and innovation. We produce versatile graduates, generate new knowledge that contributes to a healthier society, and translate our research into successful healthcare strategies.

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 PhD. Additionally, applicants must meet the projects selection criteria:
  • A good understanding of cell biology and experience with cell culture techniques
  • Experience with basic molecular biology and biochemistry procedures (e.g., RNA preparation, PCR and Western blotting etc.)
  • Experience with microscopy and/or flow cytometry
  • Know-how of nanoparticle assembly and understanding of basic bioconjugation chemistry
Applicants who are also able to demonstrate the following will be highly regarded:
  • Experience with animal model experimentation and understanding of animal ethics
  • Basic understanding of organic and polymer chemistry

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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