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Design of new metal-based anti-cancer drugs


This project aims to investigate the mode of action of metal anti-cancer drugs, including both anti-metastatic and cytotocities against a range of different cancer cell lines.  It is aimed to understand the interactions of such drugs with blood, the extracellular matrix, cell surface, cytoplasm and nucleus and how this affects cell signalling and the mode(s) of action.


Professor Peter Lay.

Research location

School of Chemistry

Program type



Since the discovery of Pt anti-cancer drugs, considerable effort has been directed to the design of new platinum drugs and those with other precious metals.  Relatively recently, it was realised that the drug does not have to be highly cytotoxic to have strong anti-cancer properties.  Some of the most promising recent developments are in the fields of ruthenium, gallium and vanadium complexes, which have mostly anti-metastatic effects (i.e. prevent cancers from spreading, or are selective for metastases).  Although some of these complexes have undergone Phase I and II human clinical trials, the mechanisms of their action remain uncertain.

Our group has the most extensive experience in studies of interactions of metal complexes with biological systems, particularly using synchrotron-based techniques. Some of the current research directions include studies of:

(i) anti-cancer metal complexes, using a wide range of physico-chemical techniques, such as electronic, vibrational, NMR and EPR spectroscopies, electrospray mass spectrometry, electrochemical techniques, and X-ray absorption spectroscopy;
(ii) the interactions of metal complexes with biological media (including artificial digestion systems, blood and its components, and cultured cells) by X-ray absorption near-edge (XANES) spectroscopy;
(iii) the interactions of metal-based anti-cancer drugs with single mammmalian cells by X-ray fluorescence mapping, microprobe XANES spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopies; and
(iv) the modes of actions of drugs, including changes in cell signalling using diverse biochemical, cell biology and spectroscopic assays.

Additional information

Other research opportunities are in biospectroscopy and extracellular vesicles (microvesicles and exosomes)

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 141