Circulating nucleic acid biomarkers for surveillance in Merkel cell carcinoma

This biomarker study involves the collection of clinically well annotated biospecimens from >100 MCC patients, including blood and tissue samples taken before and during treatment.

Places available:

  • One Honours

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 5year survival of only 50% meaning that progression is common. Surveillance of disease recurrence is therefore an important part of patient management.

This biomarker study involves 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 honours project will involve the detection of somatic mutations in DNA extracted from blood plasma using targeted massively parallel sequencing and digital droplet PCR. The project will also involve the analysis of a novel microRNA biomarker miR375. The detection of the cell free biomarkers in blood will be compared to carefully curated clinical data.

Contact and more information

Associate Professor Richard Tothill
rtothill@unimelb.edu.au