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Oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes and cell-cell interactions in cancer: which are important in driving tumour progression and invasion in squamous cell carcinomas?


Associate Professor Guy Lyons.

Research location

Camperdown - Central Clinical School

Program type



Cancer is a genetic disease. Cancer causing genes are mutated by radiation, viruses and mutagenic chemicals. Despite the identification of many of these genes fundamental questions of how they function, particularly in interaction with one another, remain to be answered.

This project aims to determine the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which genes contribute to the formation of squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) of the skin, cornea and the head and neck region. We are using a variety of novel cell culture and animal models that enable us to identify genetically distinct clones of cells and examine their interactions while they are alive and undergoing carcinogenesis. This enables us to monitor their growth and motility in real time, and to investigate their responses to carcinogens and potential anti-cancer therapies.

Additional information

Techniques :This project encompasses a range of molecular and cell biological methods and analyses, including live cell imaging, plasmid and virus vector construction, gene expression analysis, some small animal handling and intravital microscopy. Both in vivo and in vitro models for squamous cell carcinogenesis are established in the laboratory.

Potential research areas for PhDs:

Cell-cell interactions in squamous cell carcinogenesis. This project will investigate the role of cooperative interactions between clones of cells in driving tumour progression. It will use genomic analyses and cell biology to identify what types of genes can interact to affect proliferation and motility when they are present in different individual cells. Computer simulations are also used to predict the effects of these cell-cell interactions on the population of cells as a whole, and how they affect the clonal evolution of the cells.

How the cornea responds to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). UVR is the most commonly encountered carcinogen. This project will investigate the signalling pathways by which corneal epithelial cells respond to low doses of UVR, similar to those encountered on a sunny day. It will use advanced fluorescence microscopy of living corneas to visualise epithelial cells as they divide, migrate and stratify. The corneas from novel reporter strains of genetically modified mice will be used to locate and measure signalling responses in the living tissue, and probed with pathway-specific drugs to determine their importance.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 102