PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Rosaline Habib

Student Profile: Rosaline Habib TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up awardee Rosaline Habib

Mesenchymal Stem Cell Homing to Advanced and Metastatic Prostate Cancer

Award:  Rosaline is the recipient of a two-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 

The Aim of this project is to determine the cell surface molecules that play a key role in the trafficking of bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (“BMSC”s) to prostate cancer. The genetic modification of BMSCs to over-express these receptors should allow improved BMSC targeting of cancer metastases.  In order to achieve this we will be performing the following:

  • Migration assays
  • Gene expression profiling of BMSC homing to prostate cancer conditioned media in vitro. This will give us information on the cell surface receptors that are upregulated in homing.
  • Confirmation of factors mediating migration in vitro by knocking-down the genes involved in BMSC homing to prostate cancer conditioned media.
  • Confirmation of factors mediating migration in vivoby performing monoclonal antibody blocking studies


What is the translational application of your research?

One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer (“PCa”) in their lifetime. While early stage can be treated with surgery, late stage disease resulting from the spread of PCa to the abdomen (advanced) or other organs (metastases) is incurable. Thus, novel treatment strategies for PCa metastases must be developed. Cellular gene therapy is one such strategy.

Bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSC) have attracted attention as cellular vehicles for gene therapy due to their ability to evade rejection by the immune system, which is a major hurdle for most gene delivery systems currently under investigation. BMSC display a tumour been exploited to successfully deliver cancer gene therapy to melanoma, glioma, breast, lung and colon cancer in mice. Although we have shown infused BMSC home to experimental signals required for BMSC homing and recruitment to cancer lesions remain unclear. It is anticipated that a greater understanding of these mechanisms may permit improved therapeutic BMSC targeting (the delivery genes) to PCa.


“I am a strong believer in being a ‘social scientist’.  A PhD candidature should not only be about what happens at the bench but also about networking and effectively communicating one’s research.  A good scientist must be able to share their research findings with the broader scientific community and enrich their own research through networking.  I believe the TCRN will encourage and provide opportunities for networking and communicating research through the attendance of workshops and conferences, and through interaction with peers.”

This PhD research has been presented at the Australasian Gene Therapy Society conference held on the 8 –10th May, 2013 

Rosaline Habib commenced the first year of her PhD studies at the school of medical and molecular biosciences, University of Technology, Sydney in 2012.