Gold-Based Drugs for the Effective Treatment of Ovarian Cancer

This project will test new gold-based compounds as alternatives to current ovarian cancer chemotherapies using immunoassays and a novel immunocompetent ovarian cancer mouse model.

This scholarship will fund a 3-year PhD candidature working in the Cancer, Ageing & Vaccine Laboratory (SHBS). The project is a collaboration with chemists (SoS) to test gold compounds as anti-ovarian cancer therapeutics. 

  • The value of the scholarship is equivalent to an RMIT full scholarship
  • This scholarship will be available for 3.5 years.

Three (3).

Applicants need to have a background in immunology or cancer biology, preferably cancer immunology and most preferably ovarian cancer. They must have completed a relevant Bachelors degree and Honours or Masters. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, applicants must be living in Australia at time of application.

Email Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski at directly with your statement of interest, cover letter addressing the desirable criteria, CV and academic qualifications.

Also see the  HDR How to Apply website.

Applications now open.

Applications will close once candidates are appointed.

Current treatments for ovarian cancer are largely toxic, and ultimately, ineffective for many patients. A current collaboration between Distinguished Professor Plebanski (Health & Biomedical Sciences) and Distinguished Professor Bhargava (Science) seeks to enable clinical progression for their novel class of gold-based drugs that show superior selectivity and activity for otherwise drug-resistant cancer cells, for the treatment of ovarian cancer (Mirzadeh et al., 2021, DOI: 10.1093/mtomcs/mfab039).

As part of Professor Plebanski’s team, the PhD candidate will contribute to determining the in vivo efficacy, pharmacokinetics, safety, off-target effects (peripheral and immunity) and biodistribution of lead gold-drug candidate(s) and pharmaceutical formulation development. As part of working towards a Phase I clinical trial, the gold-compounds will need to be tested for efficacy in ovarian cancer cell lines, organoids as well as immune cells from mice and humans. Techniques for this part of the project will include proliferation assays, ELISAs, qPCR, Western blots, ICP-MS, flow-cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. 

The lead drug candidates will be tested in a novel immunocompetent ovarian cancer animal model; a mouse model created by Professor Plebanski and Dr Andrew Stephens (Hudson Institute) whereby fluorescent labelling of cancer cells allows for real-time study of cancer growth and treatment (Wilson et al., 2018, DOI: 10.3390/cancers11010032). Efficacy of the gold-compounds will be analysed by advanced live in-vivo imaging and immunohistochemistry. Testing in cancer organoids may further involve international collaborators at Bristol University, United Kingdom and/or the Hudson Institute, who are leaders in the development of innovate organoids for cancer research. 

Desirable criteria:

  • Practical experience and conceptual background in cellular immunology, particularly tumour immunology.
  • Practical experience and conceptual background in solid tumour biology, particularly ovarian cancer.
  • Interest in, and ability to work in an interdisciplinary setting with immunologists, cancer biologists, and chemists.
  • Experience in animal (specifically mouse) handling.
  • Experience in tissue culture.

For further inquiries, please contact Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski at

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.