FindA University Ltd Featured PhD Programmes
FindA University Ltd Featured PhD Programmes
FindA University Ltd Featured PhD Programmes

A PhD study examining Liquid Biopsy Analysis for Poor Prognosis Categories of Prostate Cancer (The Tiger Test). (COOPERCU20NMEDERT)

Faculty of Medicine and Health Science

About the Project

Prostate Cancer (PCa) is present in around half of all men over 60, however only a very small proportion of these men will die of PCa. Determining which men will and will not require treatment is an ongoing clinical problem for men and the NHS. We have identified a poor prognosis group of patients that have an expression signature called DESNT1. This signature is identified by the Tiger Test in prostate tissue samples. However biopsy sampling does not give a complete picture of the disease status in a prostate which can have multiple foci of aggressive disease containing different mutations2. We hypothesis that a more holistic assessment of the prostate would improve the Tiger Test - one way would be by examining Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) produced by the cancer.
The areas of the prostate in which tumours develop constantly produce secretions which naturally flow along myriad prostatic lumen into the urethra. These secretions carry cancer EVs which are flushed out of the body on urination. Our research on RNA contained within urine EVs has produced the PUR (Prostate Urine Risk) signatures3 that (i) can be used to predict presence of cancer on biopsy and (ii) can predict worsening of disease (Hazard Ratio 8.2).

In this PhD study you will examine whether EV analysis can replace biopsy analysis for the Tiger Test. The project will have wet lab and bioinformatic components and you will interact with bioinformaticians to analyse and improve the EV biomarker signatures. The Tiger Test has the potential to benefit large numbers of men.

You will be part of the Cancer Genetics team at the Norwich Medical School, an interdisciplinary team comprising lab-based scientists and bioinformaticians. We have a broad interest in translational cancer based molecular studies with the aim of improving patient care.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:

This is a PhD programme.

The start date of the project is 1 February 2021.

The mode of study is full-time. The studentship length is 3 years. Please note, 3-year studentships have a (non-funded) 1-year ‘registration only’ period.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is a fully funded 3-year studentship, consisting of Home/EU fees, an annual stipend of £15,285 and £1000 per annum to support research training.

N.B. Overseas applicants may apply but they are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (which for 2020-21 are detailed on the University’s fees pages at View Website . Please note tuition fees are subject to an annual increase).

Entry requirements:

Acceptable first degree in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, or Genetics.

The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.


1) Luca B-A, Brewer DS, Edwards DR, Edwards S, Whitaker HC, Merson S, et al. DESNT: A Poor Prognosis Category of Human Prostate Cancer. European Urology Focus. Elsevier; 2017;0(0).

2) Cooper CS, Eeles R, Wedge DC, Van Loo P, Gundem G, Alexandrov LB, et al. Analysis of the genetic phylogeny of multifocal prostate cancer identifies multiple independent clonal expansions in neoplastic and morphologically normal prostate tissue. Nat Genet. 2015 Apr;47(4):367–72.

3) Shea P. Connell, Marcel Hanna, Frank McCarthy, Rachel Hurst, Martyn Webb, Helen Curley, Helen Walker, Rob Mills, Richard Y. Ball, Martin G. Sanda, Kathryn L. Pellegrini, Dattatraya Patil, Antoinette S. Perry, Jack Schalken, Hardev Pandha, Hayley Whitaker, Nening Dennis, Christine Stuttle, Ian G. Mills, Ingrid Guldvik, Movember GAP1 Urine Biomarker Consortium, Chris Parker, Daniel S. Brewer, Colin S. Cooper, Jeremy Clark. A Four-Group Urine Risk Classifier for Predicting Outcome in Prostate Cancer Patients. BJUInt 2019, vol 21, pp2163-12.

4) Wedge DC, Gundem G, Mitchell T, Woodcock DJ, Martincorena I, Ghori M, et al. Sequencing of prostate cancers identifies new cancer genes, routes of progression and drug targets. Nat Genet. Nature Publishing Group; 2018 Apr 16;387:70.

5) Gundem G, Van Loo P, Kremeyer B, Alexandrov LB, Tubio JMC, Papaemmanuil E, et al. The evolutionary history of lethal metastatic prostate cancer. Nature. 2015 Apr 16;520(7547):353–7.

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