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A new approach to understanding cancer cell heterogeneity

   Molecular and Clinical Sciences Research Institute

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  Dr E Sviderskaya, Prof Y Korchev, Dr Kenneth Laing  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

About the Project

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells (melanocytes). Melanoma is the cancer with the most rapidly growing incidence in the UK. Melanocyte transformation into melanoma is associated with alterations in the cells. Cancer cell populations harbour significant heterogeneity in cellular morphologies, gene expression patterns, proliferation rates, metastatic potential and sensitivity to treatment. This heterogeneity is a major obstacle to understanding and treating cancer. 

This interdisciplinary project will combine novel advanced imaging techniques with cell and molecular biology methods to elucidate the interplay between phenotypic heterogeneity and genomic alterations of the cells that constitute cancer and thus can help in the development of improved cell-based diagnostics and therapies.

This is a joint project with Imperial College London and a potential iCASE.

Skills we expect a student to develop/acquire whilst pursuing this project

  • MRC skills priority - Interdisciplinary skills
  • Advanced mammalian cell culture, cell biology and molecular biology methods including cell proliferation, differentiation, senescence and apoptosis assays, immunostaining
  • Fluorescence and confocal microscopy
  • Advanced high-resolution scanning probe microscopy for live cell imaging and use of novel nano-sensors for analysis of tumour samples
  • Develop skills in processing and analysing interdisciplinary data
  • Presentation of findings at academic meetings and in peer review publications 

Particular prior educational requirements for a student undertaking this project

  • BSc/BA
  • 2i or above in a science discipline
  • Preferably also Master’s degree
  • Prior experience in basic laboratory skills is essential 

Project key words 

  • Cancer
  • Cell biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Single cell gene expression
  • Nano-biosensors
  • High-resolution microscopy

Possible under 1+4 route? Master’s options identified


SGUL - MRes/MSc Translational Medicine

SGUL - MRes Biomedical Sciences – Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer

MRC Core Skills developed through this project

Quantitative skills

Interdisciplinary skills

MRC LID themes

Translational and Implementation Research

Funding Notes


Zhang, Y., Takahashi, Y., Hong, S.P. et al. High-resolution label-free 3D mapping of extracellular pH of single living cells. Nat Commun 10, 5610 (2019).
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