Circulating nucleic acid biomarkers for surveillance in Merkel cell carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare but highly aggressive and often fatal neuroendocrine skin cancer linked to viral infection and excessive sun exposure. The majority of MCC (~65%) present as early stage disease, which nevertheless has an estimated 5-year survival of only 50 percent, meaning that progression is common. Surveillance of disease recurrence is therefore an important part of patient management.
Our laboratory has developed a biomarker study involving the collection of clinically well annotated biospecimens from >100 MCC patients, including blood and tissue samples taken before and during treatment. This mature biobank represents an excellent resource to investigate the potential utility of nucleic acid biomarkers to monitor MCC response to treatment.
The project will involve the detection of somatic mutations in cell free (cf) DNA extracted from blood plasma using targeted massively parallel DNA sequencing and digital droplet PCR. The detection of the tumour DNA in blood will be compared to arefully curated clinical data and FDG-PET imaging in these patients.
A potential extension of this work for a masters project would involve the exploration of more novel methods for the detection of RNA in blood plasma or serum samples.
This research project is available to Honours, Master of Biomedical Science students to join as part of their thesis.
Please contact the Research Group Leader to discuss your options.
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