Sleep and Cancer: The role of intermittent hypoxia


Background: Recent epidemiological studies have shown that patients with obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) have higher rates of cancer and cancer mortality however the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is increasingly prevalent in the adult population and is most commonly associated with stroke and cardiovascular disease. It is characterised by periods of intermittent hypoxia (low oxygen) in the blood and surrounding tissues. Tumour hypoxia is associated with worse cancer outcomes but only recently has the idea been formed that OSA could contribute to tumour hypoxia and affect outcomes.

Project: This project will investigate the roles of the transcription factors HIF-1α and NF-κB in altering tumour behaviour using cell culture models. Cultured cells are exposed to alternating oxygen levels mimicking OSA and changes in mRNA expression and protein expression are examined to understand how these changes might alter tumour behaviour. Post-translational modifications of proteins will also be studied. The project combines elements of molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry and chemical biology. The primary aim is to define regulatory mechanisms mediating transcriptional activity.

While the effect of OSA is likely to be relevant to many tumour types, glioblastoma and melanoma have been selected for initial work. Epidemiological studies indicate that patients with OSA have higher rates of primary brain cancers and that melanoma patients with OSA have increased tumour growth rates and increased markers for aggressiveness.

There are opportunities to collaborate with other labs based in both Sydney and internationally.


Dr Kristina Cook, Professor Peter Cistulli

Research Location

Camperdown - Charles Perkins Centre

Program Type



Techniques: cell culture, gene expression arrays, qPCR, SDS-PAGE and western blotting, transfection, PCR

Additional Information

The candidate will be expected to obtain their own scholarships with assistance from me in applying for opportunities.

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hypoxia, Cancer, tumour, Sleep, obstructive sleep apnoea, Drug development, HIF, Hypoxia Inducible Factor, bioreactor, Transcription

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2242