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A 3Rs approach to tumour metastasis: investigating the role of cancer stem cells in metastasis using an in vitro microfluidic model

Project Description

Applications are invited for a three year PhD studentship at QMUL, fully funded by the NC3Rs, to support an ambitious student with a strong interest in using cross-disciplinary ‘organ-on-a-chip’ approaches to improve the experimental modelling of human cancer. The PhD student will work with Dr Adrian Biddle in the Centre for Cell Biology and Cutaneous Research at the Blizard Institute, and Dr Julien Gautrot at the School of Engineering and Materials Science.

Applicants should have a good honours degree (minimum 2(i) or equivalent) with a strong background in cell biology, biomedical engineering, or a related subject. Hands-on cell culture experience would be advantageous, and an interest in engineered approaches to tissue modelling is essential.

This project aims to develop a human-relevant metastasis-on-a-chip cell culture model that incorporates multiple stages of metastasis and can replace mouse assays for investigating the role of cancer stem cells in tumour metastasis. Previous work in our lab has identified a sub-population of cancer stem cells that drives metastasis in oral cancer, and a similar sub-population has been observed in other tumour types by other labs. These findings are based on mouse models and 2D cell culture models, both of which have yielded important results but now present significant barriers to further progress in metastasis research. New models are required that enable the simple imaging of key metastatic steps in order to gain deeper insight into the factors driving metastasis. This project will use our metastasis-on-a-chip model to answer some of the most pressing questions in the cancer stem cell field. Characterisation of metastatic cancer stem cells and their associated protein markers will enable determination of new therapeutic targets for anti-metastatic therapies, and we will test the activity of anti-metastatic therapies in this model.

Further information about our work can be found at our lab webpages:

This project will utilise the excellent research infrastructure and state-of-the-art facilities of the Blizard Institute, including the new CREATE biofabrication facility ( We also have established collaborations with clinicians at Barts Health NHS Trust for the supply of human tumour tissue. The project will provide excellent training opportunities in cell biology, molecular biology and bioengineering within a supportive team to prepare the student for their research career. There will also be a strong 3Rs training element – you can read more about the NC3Rs and their annual PhD student summer retreat here:

Details about the Blizard Institute can be found at

Informal enquiries about this post can be made to Dr Adrian Biddle: .

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded for 3 years by the NC3Rs. It will cover UK/EU PhD tuition fees, laboratory costs and a tax free annual stipend of £16,777. Research council UK residence requirements apply.

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 144.11

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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