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  Altered MicroRNA Profiles for the Detection of New and Recurrent Thyroid Malignancies

   PhD Opportunities

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  Prof Arvind Arya, Dr Stuart Savill, Prof Stephen Hughes  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The Maelor Academic Unit of Medical & Surgical Sciences (MAUMSS) is a novel initiative by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), and is designed to encourage and support research within the Health Board and to promote academic activity, basic science and clinical research across North Wales (UK) and beyond. MAUMSS is located in Wrexham (North Wales, UK) and staffed by an interdisciplinary team of academics, clinicians, scientists and postgraduate students who are available to lead on and help other healthcare professionals develop and run all kinds of clinical research projects. It has several laboratories containing state-of-the-art molecular, analytical and diagnostic equipment. There are also meeting rooms, video-conferencing and hot-desk facilities too. All of this is available for use to encourage new researchers (promote lifelong learning and continuous professional development), help maximise research impact and ultimately provide better outcomes for patients and the public.

As part of its formal collaborative partnership with Wrexham Glyndwr University (WGU), MAUMSS has been instrumental in conceiving, developing and subsequently delivering an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accredited BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science, an MSc Biomedical Science and two IBMS approved MRes programmes in Applied Biomedical Sciences Research and Applied Clinical Research. MAUMSS, in collaboration with WGU, also deliver successful MPhil and PhD (including Professional Doctorates) programmes. To date, these academic programmes have been very successful and continue to grow and have provided the opportunity for the development of new academic programmes, which further strengthens the well-established collaborative partnership between BUCHB and WGU.

PhD Project


About half of people aged over 50 will go on to develop a thyroid nodule at some point in their lives. Its incidence rate has grown by 68% over the last decade and is projected to grow a further 74% from 2014-2035 (CRUK, 2020) With almost 40% of clinically detected nodules being malignant (Dean and Gharib, 2008), rapid and definitive exclusion of thyroid cancer is essential.

Current best practice is to use ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) with subsequent histological diagnosis. Unfortunately, only about 30% of cases are successfully diagnosed using this method (Nguyen, Lee and Ginsberg, 2005). Of the remainder, 10% each will require surgery for non-malignant thyroid disorders or yield insufficient material for histological analysis whilst the rest are graded as “indeterminate”, usually due to issues with specimen preparation or the presence of blood or non-neoplastic cells obscuring key diagnostic indicators (Tamhane and Gharib, 2016).

The majority of cases will therefore require a second tissue sampling for histological analysis. This is typically achieved by surgical resection of the lesion and hemi-thyroidectomy. Subsequent histology indicates that only about 30% of patients undergoing such a diagnostic hemi-thyroidectomy will have thyroid malignancy. Thus, about half of patients initially presenting with a thyroid nodule end up having unnecessary surgery to remove part of their thyroid.


The aim of this project is to test the hypothesis that a panel of microRNAs can be used to differentiate between patients with benign or malignant thyroid disorders. Furthermore, we will determine whether a panel of microRNAs can be used to predict the type, grade and risk of metastasis of thyroid tumours. Lastly, we will test whether a microRNA panel can be used to monitor recurrence of thyroid malignancies.

As part of your PhD you will be registered with Wrexham Glyndwr University (Wrexham, North Wales, UK) and based at BCUHB-MAUMSS.

NB: A small contribution toward tuition fees of up to £1500 per year may be provided for this study.

Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)


Dean D, Gharib H. Epidemiology of thyroid nodules. Best Practice; Research Clinical Endocrinology; Metabolism. 2008;22(6):901-911
Cancer Research UK. (2020, May). Retrieved from Cancer Research UK.:
Nguyen, G.-K., Lee, M., & Ginsberg, J. (2005). Fine-needle aspiration of the thyroid: an overview. CytoJournal, 12.
Tamhane, S., & Gharib, H. (2016). Thyroid nodule update on diagnosis and management. Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology, 17.
Qian X, Qiang J, Jian T & Zhaowei M, (2020). Serum biomarkers for thyroid cancer. Biomarkers in Medicine, 14:9
Schneider, C., Kobe, C., & Schmidt, M. (2012). Calcitonin screening in patients with thyroid nodules. Nuklearmedizin, 228-233.
Dai, M., & Li, L. (2019). Clinical value of miRNA-122 in the diagnosis and prognosis of various types of cancer. Oncology Letters, 3919-3929.
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 About the Project