Cancer modelling: How intrinsic cell heterogeneity affects responses to chemotherapy?

Study level

Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Wang Jin
Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow in Mathematical Biology
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Matthew Simpson
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Cancer is considered as one of the most serious chronic diseases which has low survival rate in the long term. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms of cancer development and recurrence becomes crucial.

Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatment for cancer. However, the reported cancer recurrence after chemotherapy remains high, due to that the cancer cells develop resistance to the drugs during treatment.

While understanding how cancer cells become drug-resistant is still under study, various hypotheses have been raised in the literature with support of experimental observations.

The aim of this project is to use mechanistic models to investigate how the intrinsic heterogeneity in cancer cells affects treatment outcomes.

In particular, cancer cells can have different proliferation and death rates, resulting in a heterogenous group when exposed to drugs.

Research activities

You will employ both agent-based models and differential equations to mimic the heterogenous population growth and its responses to various chemotherapies.

You will then compare modelling results to patient data of tumour shrinkage as well as long-term survival rates, to provide insights for possible mechanisms that can lead to drug resistance and cancer recurrence.

You can start the project in Semester 2, 2019 or Semester 1, 2020.


We expect to produce a paper and submit it to a mathematical biology journal.

Skills and experience

We expect you to have good knowledge in ordinary differential equations and stochastic modelling and good programming skills (MATLAB).


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.