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A microfluidic approach to supressing tumour metabolism and enhancing treatment sensitivity.

   School of Pharmacy

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  Dr J Coulter, Dr D Lamprou  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Belfast United Kingdom Cancer Biology Pharmacy

About the Project

Altered tumour metabolism is a recognised enabling characteristic of resistance to existing cancer therapeutics (chemo- and radiotherapy). Indeed, this was first described by Otto Warburg in 1931, detailing that oxygenated tumour cells appear to favour energy production via glycolysis, a process more commonly associated with cells under oxidative stress. Recent research has identified that the preference for lactate as an energy source in oxygenated tumour cell, frees up high energy glucose for metabolism by hypoxic tumour cells, thereby promoting tumour survival under oxygen depletion stress. Therefore, one approach to sensitise both oxygenated and hypoxic tumour cells to existing cancer therapeutics (radiotherapy or chemotherapy) would be to cut off the tumour energy supply. Given tumour plasticity, and the ability to switch between either oxidative phosphorylation or glycolysis, it is likely to derive maximal effect, both energy pathways will require inhibition.

The student appointed to this project will used cutting edge microfluidics to formulate nanoparticles (liposomes, polymer based) encompassing poorly soluble drugs against each energy pathway. The project will be comprised of two main arms: i) a pharmaceutics arms investigating nanoparticle composition, drug loading, drug release, stability etc. and ii) a cell biology arm where the nanoparticles will be tested for anti-tumour efficacy alone or in combination with chemo- and/or radiotherapy. These experiments will also be conducted under variable oxygen concentrations to establish efficacy against treatment resistant hypoxic cells.

This projects forms part of an exciting collaborative partnership between Dr Jonathan Coulter, a prostate cancer expert in translational medicine and Dr Dimitrious Lamprou, a Reader in pharmaceutical engineering with expertise in microfluidics and controlled release systems.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Molecular Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered, but the School reserves the right to shortlist for interview only those applicants who have demonstrated high academic attainment to date.

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