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Student research project

Supervisor(s): Associate Professor Julie McMullen and Dr Jenny Ooi

Project summary

Cancer therapeutics have evolved dramatically in the last five years with an explosion of potent small molecule inhibitors that target key survival pathways in the cancer cell. Many of these pathways are also crucial for cardioprotection. Hence, although the use of targeted agents in the clinic may ameliorate 'traditional' side-effects such as myelosuppression and infections, they may paradoxically increase the risk of serious cardiac events. A thorough understanding of how these agents impact cardiac signalling is critical for their safe and widespread use in the community.

Our laboratory has had a long term interest in the role of phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) in the heart. Utilising genetic mouse models, we have shown that increasing PI3K-Akt signalling in the heart provides protection against cardiac pathology, whereas decreasing PI3K can lead to cardiac dysfunction, heart failure, and increase the susceptibility to atrial fibrillation (AF). Despite the beneficial effect of PI3K in the heart, PI3K is amplified and mutated in a wide range of cancers. Thus, inhibiting components of the PI3K pathway is currently one of the most active drug developments in the cancer field.

The aim of this project is to understand the impact of anti-cancer agents on PI3K-Akt signalling in the heart and assess cardiac function.

Related methods, skills or technologies

The project is suitable for an Honours or PhD student and will involve applying various skills and techniques, including:

  • data analysis
  • preclinical models
  • various molecular biology techniques.

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