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Chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairments


Cancer and cancer treatments are associated with a wide range of side effects, including those of the nervous system. These present as neuropathic pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairments, which have have major negative effects on quality of life. Many of these side effects resolve by the end of treatment, however some persist for years after treatment has finished. These effects are widespread across all types of cancer treatments, and occur in both adults and juveniles. The mechnisms of these effects on the nervous system are poorly understood, and there are no treatments.
This project will examine these effects in animal models. Several potential mechanisms can be explored in this project, such as neuroinflammatory processes (e.g., increased cytokine expression or glial cell activiation), white matter impairment, accelerated cellular ageing, and genetic damage. In addition, we have a range of potential therapeutic candidates that can be tested to prevent and/or treat these side effects in cancer patients and cancer sruvivors.
In this way, we aim to reduce the negative impact of cancer treatments on cancer patients, to increase the safety of cancer treatments, and prevent the need to cease treatment due to these side effects.


Dr Ian Johnston.

Research location

School of Psychology

Program type



Chemotherapy is a crucial component of anticancer treatment and has led to dramatically increased survival rates in many cancers. While effective at killing cancer cells, a key, limiting factor in treatment is the fact that chemotherapeutic agents have widespread toxicity to healthy tissues throughout the body, including the brain and nervous system. In the short term, this leads to painful neuropathies, fatigue, and neuropsychological impairments, all of which commonly extend to years after treatment. Preventing and treating these neurological effects caused by chemotherapy is therefore a critical goal in improving the quality of life of cancer patients, and improving long term health outcomes.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2142

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