PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Julia Suurbach

TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Julia Suurbach TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Julia Suurbach

Novel Delivery of Gene Therapy for the Treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer

Award:  Julia is the recipient of a 1-year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisor: Dr Rosetta Martiniello-Wilks, Senior Lecturer and Head, Translational Cancer Research Group, Medical & Molecular Biosciences, Faculty of Science, University of Technology, Sydney 

One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. While early stage organ-confined PCa can be treated with surgery, late stage disease resulting from the spread of PCa to the abdomen or other organs (metastases) is incurable. Bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC) have been shown to seek out sites of injury (including cancer) anywhere in the body and have attracted attention as cellular vehicles for gene therapy.

My PhD projects aims to utilise BMSC to deliver a therapeutic and/or suicide gene in order to target metastases in a syngeneic mouse model. Prostate cancer killing will be confirmed by efficacy and survival studies. xx


What is the translational application of your research?

My project describes an entirely innovative approach for the treatment of prostate cancer metastases utilising BMSC which deliver therapeutic genes while evading rejection by the immune system, a major hurdle for most gene delivery systems currently under investigation. Ultimately, this study will provide invaluable data to formulate a Phase I safety trial of a novel BMSC delivered gene therapy for advanced prostate cancer which is currently incurable.


“I believe the TCRN will provide great opportunities to meet clinician and other scientists that help translate research into clinical settings. Through networking with professionals I will gain a deeper understanding of cancer and will be able to exchange ideas and knowledge towards better strategies for cancer treatment. The collaboration between researchers and clinician will benefit patients further down the line.”

This PhD research has been presented at the following conferences:

  • Poster presentation at the Scientific Research Meeting, 2011, 2012 (Sydney)
  • Poster presentation at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society Congress, 2012 (Vienna, Austria)
  • Oral presentation at Australasian Gene Therapy Society Conference, 2013 (Sydney)
  • Oral poster presentation at Australian-Canadian Prostate Cancer Research Alliance Symposium, 2013 (Port Douglas)

Julia Suurbach commenced her third year of PhD studies at the Faculty of Science, School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, UTS in 2013.