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4 Barry Reed/Barts Cancer Institute funded studentships available for September 2017 start 

Application Deadline: 13 August 2017

Start Date: 25 September 2017

We are pleased to offer the following 4 studentships starting this September, funded by Barry Reed & Barts Cancer Institute. These studentships are open to Home/EU applicants.

Our research training programme aims to develop a cohort of scientists equipped both intellectually and technically to conduct the highest quality cancer research.

Our research degrees are supplemented by a comprehensive support programme, providing training in a wide range of biomedical laboratory methods and other vital transferable skills.

We are now inviting applications for the following projects:

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Exploiting the dual action of low dose cilengitide to improve the efficacy of immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer

First Supervisor: Professor Kairbaan Hodivala-Dilke

Second Supervisors: Professor John Gribben

Centre for Tumour Biology

Project Outline:

This PhD position will enable the successful candidate to embark on an stimulating cancer research project in the supportive and career-enhancing environment of the Barts Cancer Institute in the laboratory of Professor Kairbaan Hodivala-Dilke.

Immunotherapy probably provides the best opportunity to improve the outcome of many cancers that otherwise lack effective treatment. However, the limitations of immunotherapy include ensuring a high level of access to the cancer microenvironment and reducing side effects.

We have discovered a new strategy that we have termed vascular promotion which can reduce tumour growth, metastasis and minimize side effects whilst extending survival (Wong et al., Cancer Cell 2015).

In this PhD project we propose to test our new vascular promotion strategy to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy. The work will involve not only increasing delivery of immunotherapy to cancer but also enhancing its efficacy in vivo thus potentially reducing side effects. The project will involve investigations at the organismal, cellular and molecular level. The impact of this exciting project could include the provision of a new way to improve immunotherapy as a basis for translation in patients.

A proteomics guided approach for identification of novel functional interactions downstream of mutant KRAS signalling in PDAC

First Supervisor: Dr Faraz Mardakheh

Second Supervisor: Dr Tyson Sharp

Centre for Molecular Oncology

Project Outline:

Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly aggressive cancer of unmet needs with a 5-year median survival rate of <5%. Oncogenic KRAS mutations are the main drivers of PDAC, accounting for more than 90% of all diagnosed PDAC cases. Despite decades of intense research, direct pharmacological targeting of mutant KRAS has remained impossible. However, whether mutant KRAS signalling leads to as of yet unknown vulnerabilities in PDAC cells which could be exploited for therapeutic purposes, remains to be determined. The aim of this project is to use a novel quantitative proteomics approach which we have developed in our lab to systematically map protein-protein interactions that are modulated downstream of mutant KRAS in PDAC cells. We will assess the functional significance of such dynamic interactions in regulation of different aspects of PDAC biology, and investigate whether disruption any of these interactions may be a vulnerability for the growth or survival of PDAC cells. Targeting such interactions could therefore be utilised as a potential synthetic lethal strategy for treatment of PDAC in clinic.

In this project, the PhD candidate will learn to perform quantitative proteomics and a variety of bioinformatics techniques for analysis of global interactome data. They will also learn to use various cell culture and protein biochemistry based assays to evaluate the functional impacts of specific protein-protein interactions.

Dissecting the role of exosomes on the remodelling of PDAC microenvironment

First Supervisor: Dr Susana Godinho

Second Supervisor: Professor John Marshall

Centre for Molecular Oncology

Project Outline:

Pancreatic Ductal Carcinoma (PDAC) is characterised by poor prognosis due to late diagnosis, high metastatic potential and resistance to therapies. The tumour microenvironment is thought to contribute to the PDAC aggressiveness and resistance to therapy, partly due to the activation of pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs). Thus, understanding how PSCs are activated is crucial for the development of more effective therapies to treat PDAC patients. We recently discovered that cancer cells containing extra centrosomes, a common feature of human tumours, secrete higher amounts of extracellular vesicles (exosomes) able to activate PSCs. We are looking for highly motivated PhD student to investigate how exosomes activate PSCs and how this contributes to PDAC invasion:

Aim1. Profiling of exosomes secreted by cells with extra centrosomes. Isolated exosomes will be analysed by mass spectrometry to identify the proteins contained in these vesicles.

Aim2. Identify the exosome components that play a role in PSCs activation. siRNA screen will be used to determine the exosomal proteins important to activate PSCs.

Aim3. Role of secreted exosomes in PDAC invasion. Using 3-D organotypic models, we will test if activation of PSCs with isolated exosomes promote PDAC invasion and which of the identified proteins are required for this process. 

Determining the Contribution of Non-random Chromosome Missegregation to Clonal Evolution in Cancer

First Supervisor: Dr Sarah McClelland

Second Supervisor: Professor Jude Fitzgibbon

Centre for Molecular Oncology

Project Outline:

Aneuploidy – the wrong number of chromosomes – is rife in solid tumours and blood cancers. Mechanisms driving aneuploidy in cancer are notoriously difficult to determine, however our previous work demonstrated a role for DNA replication stress in promoting cancer aneuploidy (Burrell* and McClelland* et al., Nature 2013). Until recently it was thought that all human chromosomes carry an equal likelihood of becoming aneuploid, however we recently excitingly discovered that specific chromosomes are more prone to aneuploidy. We have demonstrated that this phenomenon, ‘non-random chromosome mis-segregation’ occurs following at least two major mechanisms proposed to drive aneuploidy in cancer, with specific aneuploidy landscapes arising as a consequence of mechanistically distinct pathways to chromosome mis-segregation. We are now in a position to determine how chromosome-specific mutation rates impact clonal evolution of cancer genomes. The successful student will couple cell biological and novel imaging techniques to mathematical modelling to ask fundamental questions about the impact of chromosome-specific rates during clonal selection, with potential impact for the future analysis and interpretation of genomic data from cancer patients.

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Who should apply

Academic Entry Requirements

This studentship is open to graduates from the UK/EU with either:

  • a 2:1 or 1st degree in a related subject; or,
  • a 2:2 in a related subject with a subsequent MSc awarded with Merit or Distinction

If your degree has not yet been awarded but you are expected to meet the above entry requirements you are welcome to apply.

For more information on international equivalencies please see here.

English Language Requirements

Applicants for whom English is not a first language will also require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with 6.0 in the written component) or equivalent, unless your undergraduate degree was studied in, and awarded by, an English speaking country. For more information on acceptable English language qualifications please see here.

Communication Skills

Successful applicants will be asked to represent the charity at engagement events. As such, we are looking for applicants with good communication skills who are enthusiastic and able to explain their research, and it's impact, to both scientists and non-scientists.  

Funding

The studentship includes the following funding for 3 years:

  • A tax free annual stipend of £18,000
  • Tuition Fees at the Home/EU rate
  • Project consumables

How to apply

To apply you will need to submit the below documents to bci-cancercourses@qmul.ac.uk:

  • Completed PhD application form
  • Your CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • 2 references*
  • Copy of your transcript(s), including a breakdown of marks
  • Copy of your passport
  • If applicable, proof of English proficiency

*You should contact your referees to request a reference. At least one of your references must be an academic one. References can either be returned to you or submitted directly to bci-cancercourses@qmul.ac.uk using our reference form.

Please ensure you provide all supporting documents, as we are unable to consider incomplete applications.

Who to contact if you require further information

If you have a question about a specific project please contact the supervisor directly. For general enquiries about the PhD studentship or application process please contact bci-cancercourses@qmul.ac.uk

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Contact Details & Location

  • bci-cancercourses@qmul.ac.uk
  • +44(0) 20 7882 2081
    +44(0) 20 7882 3847
  • Barts Cancer Institute
    Teaching Centre,
    Joseph Rotblat Building,
    Charterhouse Square,
    London EC1M 6BQ
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