Per annum, for three and a half years. Fee relief additional. Amount includes a ONJCRI top up to take total to $30,000 per annum

Opening date

Closing date



Who is it for?

Future PhD candidates, Australian Citizen, Permanent Resident

Where is it available?


How is it paid?

Fortnightly stipend


The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) is proudly the La Trobe University School of Cancer Medicine, based at the Austin Hospital. As a graduate researcher with ONJCRI you will have access to a wide range of resources, services and academic programs. You will study with renowned scientists with excellent publication records who are committed to helping you build a successful career in translational cancer research. Our translational research approach means that every day you'll be able to work alongside clinicians, collaborating in the laboratory and at the bedside, to develop breakthrough therapies to help people feel better, sooner.

We are currently on the search for more brilliant postgraduate scientists to join our research programs.

Currently the ONJCRI is offering two specific scholarships (see projects below) for outstanding PhD candidates who have completed Honours or Masters by Research in molecular biology, biochemistry or biomedical sciences. The research undertaken aims to better understand the biology of Cancer and how we can provide better clinical care and treatments of those with cancer.

To review our research programs please go to:


Immune-based biomarkers of immunotherapy response in biliary tract cancer

Biliary tract cancer (BTC) is a heterogeneous tumor entity that arises from epithelial cells lining the bile duct. Given the rapidly increasing global disease incidence and limited benefit from chemotherapy, development of new treatments is urgently needed. The ONJCRI completed accrual to an anti-CTLA-4/anti-PD-1 combination immunotherapy trial in BTC patients, reporting a 23% overall response rate. Using these samples we aim to discover and validate histologic, molecular and immune-based biomarkers of immunotherapy response in biliary cancer. These will include PD-L1 expression, immune cell composition, tumour mutation burden (TMB), gene-expression and genomic signatures in the responders and non-responders. On the basis of the results, a simpler immunohistochemistry (IHC)-based assay will be developed for clinical use. All findings will be compared to gene-expression and sequencing data generated from BTC cell lines.

Supervisors: Associate Professor Andreas Behren, Tumour Immunology Laboratory and Professor John Mariadason, Oncogenic Transcription Laboratory

Targeting cell surface receptor signalling in the tumour microenvironment

Cancer development and spread depends on interactions of tumour cells with surrounding normal cells, which stimulate growth, new blood vessel formation, and evasion of anti-tumour immune responses. We study the role of cell surface proteins, including receptor tyrosine kinases and metalloproteases, which mediate intercellular signalling in tumours and the surrounding microenvironment (TME). To facilitate this we modulate the expression or function of these proteins, either genetically, or using novel monoclonal antibodies, which we develop as new potential therapeutic agents. This project will study genetic and antibody-mediated modulation of Eph cell guidance receptors, which are elevated in tumours and the TME in a range of tumour types. The research will employ cell and animal based tumour models, and involve cutting edge microscopy, flow cytometry, proteomic and single-cell sequencing technologies.

Supervisor: Associate Professor Peter Janes, Receptor Biology Laboratory

Benefits of the scholarship include:

  • a La Trobe Research Scholarship for three and a half years, with a value of $28,597.00 per annum (2021 rate) and additional top up to take total to $30,00 per annum), to support your living costs
  • a fee-relief scholarship for up to four years
  • Relocation allowance and publication/thesis allowance
  • opportunities to work with La Trobe’s outstanding researchers, and have access to our suite of professional development programs.
  • Additional ONJCRI benefits – Laptop computer for all students, travel fund for conference attendance when possible

Are you eligible to apply?

To be eligible to apply for this scholarship, applicants must:

  • meet the entrance requirements for the proposed course
  • not be receiving another scholarship greater than 75 per cent of the stipend rate for the same purpose.
  • be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
In selecting successful applicants, we prioritise applications from candidates who:
  • will be enrolled full-time and undertaking their research at a La Trobe University campus
  • have completed a Masters by Research or other significant body of research, such as an honours research thesis or lead authorship of a peer-reviewed publication, assessed at a La Trobe Masters by research standard of 75 or above

How to apply

If you wish to apply for this scholarship, follow these steps:

  • review details on how to apply for candidature
  • contact the ONJCRI student co-ordinator, with a CV summarising your research experience, transcript of results for previous education and indicating if there is a specific project which you are interested in (see projects above)
  • if you are able to be matched with a project we will invite you to apply. If selected to apply, you will need to complete and submit your application by 30 April 2021 for admission into La Trobe’s PhD program, indicating you wish to be considered for this scholarship on the application.
The University will carefully review your application and consider you for this scholarship. You will be advised of an outcome in June 2021

Who to contact for further information

Kerryn Westcott, School Graduate Research Co-ordinator,