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Early Origins of Breast and Prostate Cancer

food and nutrition science student

Explore maternal nutrition, developmental origins of disease, cancer and epigenetics through molecular genetics

It is well known that maternal complications during pregnancy can impact the short and long-term health of offspring. In particular, uteroplacental insufficiency during pregnancy can predispose offspring who are born small to an increased risk of developing chronic disease later in life such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer. In addition, overnutrition of the mother or father prior to and during pregnancy programs offspring disease risk.

Using samples collected from previous animal studies, our research objective is to determine if pregnancy complications alter prostate or mammary gland development in offspring, leading to an increased susceptibility of developing cancer in adult life. Given that obesity is a growing epidemic world-wide, understanding how obesity can influence the development and progression of cancer will help identify targets for intervention and prevention. We are also investigating the molecular mechanisms involved.

In summary, this project will ideally suit an enthusiastic student who is interested in learning more about maternal nutrition, developmental origins of disease, cancer and epigenetics.

You will develop skills in:

  • DNA and RNA Extractions
  • Quantitative Real Time PCR
  • Immunhistochemistry
  • DNA Methylation Analyses

Key References:

  • Chiam K, Tilley WD, Butler LM, Bianco-Miotto T. The dynamic and static modification of the epigenome by hormones: a role in the developmental origin of hormone related cancers. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009; 1795(2):104-9.
  • Mahizir D, Briffa JF, Hryciw DH, Wadley GD, Moritz KM, Wlodek ME. Maternal obesity in females born small: Pregnancy complications and offspring disease risk. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2016; 60(1):8-17.
  • Cheong JN, Wlodek ME, Moritz KM, Cuffe JS. Programming of maternal and offspring disease: impact of growth restriction, fetal sex and transmission across generations. J Physiol. 2016; 594(17):4727-40


Dr Tina Bianco-Miotto

Co-supervisorsProf Mary Wlodek - University of Melbourne

Research area: Nutrition Science

Recommended honours enrolment: Honours in Food and Nutrition Science

Tagged in Honours projects - Food and Nutrition Science, Honours projects - Tina Bianco-Miotto, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science, Honours projects - Molecular and biomedical science: Other

STEM Careers Night: On-campus and online

Whether you're still at high school or planning to join us mid-year, taking a break from study or rethinking your career path, come chat with us at our STEM Careers Night.

You and your parents are invited to join us on campus on Tuesday 18 May to see what’s available in the world of STEM.

STEM Careers Night