Study As
Full Time

Principal Supervisor
Dr Nirmal Robinson

Main Campus
City West

Applications Close
27 Sep 2023

Study Level

Applications Open To
Domestic Candidate

Tuition Fees:

All domestic students are eligible for a fee waiver. Find out more about fees and conditions.

Project Stipend:
$32,500 p.a. (Domestic only)

About this project

Advance our knowledge about glioblastoma 

If you are seeking to advance your career in cancer biology and motivated to advance our knowledge about brain cancer, the University of South Australia – Australia’s University of Enterprise – is offering a hands-on project-based PhD within Centre for Cancer Biology in partnership with NeuroSurgical Research Foundation (NRF).  

Glioblastoma (GBM) is an aggressive type of brain cancer with a very low survival rate (11–15 months) despite an intensive therapeutic regimen consisting of surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. GBM has been untreatable because these cells invade other regions of the brain, become resistant to currently available therapies and escape elimination by the immune system.  

We have identified that GBM cells produce a ‘don’t eat me’ signal known as CD47 to escape from immune cells and is particularly increased in the region where cancer cells invade other parts of the brain which also lack immune cells. In-depth molecular analysis of the CD47-depleted cancer cells have helped us to unravel altered metabolic pathways as additional vulnerabilities of GBM. 

This project will investigate the molecular signalling mechanisms that drive CD47-dependent GBM tumourigenesis using unique mouse models and patient-derived cell lines. We will also combine proteomics and metabolomics to investigate how CD47 regulates metabolism in GBM cells and identify targetable metabolic vulnerabilities. This knowledge will enable us to develop potential therapeutic strategies to treat GBM. 

Our project will help identify metabolic changes and/or markers (genes or proteins) that are associated with CD47, that can be targeted to induce the death of GBM cells by limiting the avenues, such as altered metabolism, they use to adapt under stress conditions and escape the host immune response. 

We aim to increase knowledge in the field of GBM that is critical to advancing brain cancer research and improving GBM’s clinical management, particularly with regard to understanding the molecular links between CD47 and metabolic rewiring in GBM.  Our longer term goal is to contribute to new therapeutic strategies to treat GBM which can be rapidly translated to the clinic. The objective is to improve quality of life and survival for people with GBM.  

You will be based at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB). The CCB fosters leading-edge, cross-disciplinary interactions between scientists, trains and supports scientific leaders of the future and publishes world-class research. The state-of-the-art research laboratories are led by highly regarded scientists who are collegial, cooperative and always open for discussions.  

Opportunities to translate new discoveries into clinical practice is strengthened by a partnership with SA Pathology, the newly established ACRF Cancer Genomics Facility, co-localisation with Clinical Health Sciences, and proximity to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. 

What you’ll do 

In this project-based research degree, you will, under broad supervision, undertake project planning, perform experiments and conduct data analysis. You will be expected to review literature and other sources of scientific information, participate in project planning meetings, develop new ideas and provide new research directions.  

You will gain experience in laboratory management and preparing biosafety and ethics applications. We will support you in disseminating new knowledge via submitting articles to academic publications and presenting at meetings and seminars. There will be opportunities for you to travel to scientific conferences, which will allow you to garner valuable feedback on your research and help you build your professional network. 

Where you’ll be based

You’ll be based at the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) 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 $32,500 per annum is available to Australian and New Zealand citizens, and permanent residents of Australia, including permanent humanitarian visa holders.  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. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time.

Eligibility and Selection 

This project is open to applications from Australian or New Zealand citizens, and Australian permanent residents or permanent humanitarian visa holders. International applicants are not invited to apply at this time. 

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria entrance into a PhD. 

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 Wednesday, 27 September, 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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