Queen Mary University of London and A*STAR PhD Studentship:  Investigating Immune micro-environment in pancreatic cancer

Application Deadline: 31 March 2019

Start Date: September 2019 (dates can be flexible)

This PhD programme is a collaboration between A*STAR and Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) to provide research opportunities for PhD students at A*STAR Research Institutes. Under this programme, PhD students from overseas universities will spend one to two years at A*STAR Research Institutes under the joint supervision of staff of the A*STAR Research Institutes and QMUL.


Primary Supervisor: Prof Hemant Kocher

Centre for Tumour Biology


Project Description

Our work on pancreatic cancer micro-environment and immune cells has uncovered that the tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) may be critical in mounting anti-tumour immune response in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).

With help of key researchers at A*STAR, we aim to understand the manner in which cellular immune response if modulated in PDAC.

We will study this using human samples via the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank (PCRFTB), and murine models of PDAC as well as novel in vitro assays to understand the cell-cell interactions between different immune cells such as dendritic cells, follicular dendritic cells, and T- and B-cells. We aim to achieve the first description of global immune infiltrate in human PDAC using a sample size adequate for determining the impact of immune cells and TLS in PDAC.

We will determine the impact of differential immune infiltrate on the overall prognosis including co-variates such as tumour stage, tumour burden, presence of systemic inflammation, and other conjunct therapies.

Using a combination of in vivo models with no spontaneous orthotopic and transgenic (KPC) mice as well as human samples, we will determine the therapeutic benefit of forming an immunogenic response in a small proportion of patients where there is survival benefit.

By integrating the analysis from human and murine samples, therapeutic experimental and in vitro analyses we will elucidate the mechanisms involved in cellular immune response in pancreatic cancer. The applicant will have opportunity to work with an inter-disciplinary team in the UK lab comprised of immunologist, cancer biologist, bio-informactician, statistics experts and clinical trialists.

Who should apply

All applicants should hold a masters level degree at first /distinction level in Cancer biology or Immunology (or a related discipline). Applicants should have a good knowledge of English and ability to express themselves clearly in both speech and writing. The successful candidate must be strongly motivated for doctoral studies, must have demonstrated the ability to work independently and to perform critical analysis.
Candidates are asked to possess fundamental knowledge and skills in two or more of the following areas:

  • Excellent background in cancer immunology. Good knowledge of in vivo and in vitro techniques, such as histological analysis and FACS would be vital.
  • Prior experience/education in laboratory techniques such as histological analysis would be helpful.
  • Hands on experience using human samples would be very vital.

Fee Status

The funding for this studentship only covers Home/EU fees.


We offer a 4 year fully funded PhD studentship, with a bursary ~£16.5K/year (during the time in UK) supported by the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London,  as well as monthly stipend of S$2,500 (during the time in Singapore) and the corresponding allowance supported by A*STAR Research Institutes

How to apply

You will need to complete our online application form. You will be required to include the following as part of your application:

  • Your CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Deatils of 2 referees. At least one of your references must be an academic one.
  • Copy of your transcript(s), including a breakdown of marks
  • If applicable, proof of English proficiency

When completing the application form, please ensure that:

  • In the Research Proposal section you indicate the name of the supervisor and title of the project. There is no requirement to upload a Research Proposal as you're applying for a specific project
  • Within the Funding section you select I am a QMUL PG Research Studentship applicant and then type A*STAR Research Attachment Programme in the box below
  • You provide all supporting documents, as we are unable to consider incomplete applications.

Who to contact if you require further information

For informal enquiries about the project please contact the supervisor.

For general enquiries about the PhD studentships or the application process please contact Adam Wilkinson, a.wilkinson@qmul.ac.uk.



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