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Careers & Students

Function and structure of the breast cancer predisposition gene BRCA1

PhD/Honours project

The Genome Stability Unit at St Vincent’s Institute seeks a PhD student to join their multidisciplinary team, to uncover the molecular level details of the BRCA1 protein. BRCA1 contributes to the majority of known familial breast cancer risk in women by promoting DNA repair, a process critical to suppression of aging and cancer.

Disease states can arise from mutations that result in a change of just a few atoms within a protein comprised of tens of thousands of atoms. Our lab is interested in uncovering the molecular level details of important DNA repair pathways to understand the biology of healthy cells and how their dysfunction can lead to cancer. This information is the essential bedrock for developing preventative or chemotherapeutic therapies.

The project involves state of the art electron microscopy to visualise molecular level details of BRCA1 and its interaction partner protein BARD1. A model of BRCA1 bound to BARD1 is of significant scientific and therapeutic interest for the understanding of these proteins’ role in breast cancer predisposition, and how different mutations cause different levels of risk. Our lab is also equipped to perform follow-up biochemical experiments based on information obtained through generation of the model. We have already established methods for producing other proteins involved in the DNA repair pathway and for interrogating their activity in the laboratory using both biochemical and cell-based assays.

The Genome Stability Unit also works closely with other teams based in familial cancer clinics and breast cancer treatment centres.The ideal candidate would be self-motivated, keen to learn numerous biochemical and cell-based techniques, and above all want to contribute to our knowledge of proteins involved in breast cancer predisposition and DNA repair.

Supervised by:

  • A/Prof Andrew Deans
  • Dr Rohan Bythell-Douglas
  • Disease Focus:

  • Cancer
  • Research Unit:

  • Genome stability
  • Mutations to DNA cause many different types of human disease, including all cancers. DNA repair mechanisms have evolved to protect cells from mutation, and DNA repair genes are therefore important tumour suppressors. The Genome Stability Unit at St Vincent’s Institute researches the mechanisms by which DNA repair is controlled, or could be targeted in therapy. The group currently has a high researcher: student ratio meaning plenty of expert advice is available to students. 

    For further information about this project, contact: [email protected]