Deciphering mechanisms of fibroblast-mediated immune regulation in dysplastic cutaneous and oral mucosal epithelium

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

Head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) that occur either externally on the skin as cutaneous SCC or internally in the mouth and throat as oral and oropharyngeal SCCs. Treatment consists of surgery, chemo-radiation or immunotherapy.  Surgery and chemo-radiation are associated with long-term morbidity, while immunotherapy benefits only ~30% of patients and is very expensive. Identification of new targets and development of new therapies is therefore urgently needed to improve patient outcomes. Our research has recently discovered an inversed relationship between tumor-resident T cells and fibroblasts. Fibroblasts are recognized as a population of tumor-promoting cells that can hinder T cell infiltration due to deposition of extracellular matrix. Emerging knowledge further suggests that fibroblasts represent a highly diverse cell population that may also play direct roles in immune cell regulation and antigen-presentation. The specific mechanisms are however poorly understood. This project will investigate the molecular underpinnings of fibroblast diversity and function in murine models of virally and chemically induced cancers of the cutaneous and oral mucosal epithelium. We will pair the preclinical work with spatial sample analysis from human samples to aid the identification of clinically relevant targets. The overarching aim of the project is to identify new molecular pathways used by fibroblasts that hinder immune activity within the tumor, and target these.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Dr Janin Chandra

Faculty of Medicine


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of cancer biology, immunology, single cell profiling, preclinical animal tumor models, and bioinformatic analysis of high-dimensional data using programming language R would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of cancer biology and/or immunology and/or single cell transcriptomic technologies and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of bioinformatic analysis of high-dimensional data using programming language R is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 1, 2025. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process