Study level

Vacation research experience scheme


Topic status

In progress.


Dr Patrick Thomas
Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health
Associate Professor Elizabeth Williams
Head, Tumour Models
Division / Faculty
Faculty of Health


Project code:


Area of research:


Project aims and objectives:

Bladder cancer (BlCa) is the 9th most common cancer in Queensland, with an estimated 53% five-year survival rate in Australians. Treatment options for superficial, locally advanced and metastatic BlCa include platinum-based chemotherapy and intravesical immunotherapy in the form of a bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine - a weakened, live bacterium that stimulates the immune response. As a result of developed resistance or progressive growth, BlCa tumour recurrence is a common clinical outcome. Thus, there is a strong need for patient tailored companion therapeutic screens in order to guide the clinical management of patients undergoing treatment. Tumour cells reconstructed in advanced three-dimensional (3D) primary culture systems serve as rapid and cost-effective pre-clincal models to predict patient outcomes. Our team is currently aiming to develop a clinical BlCa therapeutic companion assay that will serve as a useful tool to predict an individual’s response to current standard of care therapies. This project, in parallel with ongoing work with patient-derived tumour spheroids and immune cell characterisation, will serve to explore some of the underlying cellular biology encompassing BlCa organoid growth in 3D. This will provide a framework to help classify and model the response of patient-derived tissues to therapies, and ultimately will help guide clinical management decisions to improve patient outcomes.

Project aim:  To characterise the gene expression of molecular markers of bladder cancer and immune cell infiltration in patient-derived tumour organoids.

Objectives:  1. To quantify and characterise a panel of molecular markers on bladder cancer organoids established from patient-derived tissue obtained during routine surgery.  2. Establish if immune cells can be detected by bladder cancer organoids.

Methodology and resources:

1. Tissue culture techniques, 3D organoid culture, imaging (including time-lapse imaging)  2. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.

This project will utilise standard cell culture techniques in our laboratory to cultivate and growth cell lines in 3D. Spheroid viability will be assessed using standard kits and live/dead dyes before extracting RNA from mature spheroid cultures. We will assess molecular markers using standard molecular techniques and resources available in the lab.

Location of research:

Translational Research Institute (TRI)

Prior knowledge/skills:


Access and resources:

Access to supervisors, work space and all laboratory resources and software.

Research activities:

Literature review; laboratory experiments; data collection; data entry; data analysis.



Contact the supervisor for more information.