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BAOU19CPRT Anti-cancer activities of dietary isothiocyanates

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, September 20, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Sulforaphane (SFN) is an isothiocyanate (ITC) derived from glucosinolate (glucoraphanin) under the action of myrosinase when the plant tissue is damaged or chewed. Glucoraphanin is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages. Epidemiological studies show that people who consume more cruciferous vegetables associate with a reduced risk of many types of cancer.
The chemopreventive effect has been attributed to the bioactivity of SFN. SFN is known to induce cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, autophagy and a number of antioxidant enzymes via the KEAP1-Nrf2-ARE pathway. However, SFN possesses hormetic effects on angiogenesis (low doses of SFN promote tube formation and high doses inhibit) (1,2). We have recently synthesised a novel silica (Si) quantum-dot (QD) conjugated-AITC, which abolished the low doses stimulatory effects (3). In this proposal, a range of selected ITCs such as AITC, BITC, Erucin, Iberin and PEITC will be investigated using a 3D co-culture of HUVECs and pericytes, and implantation of tumor (Bladder cancer and/or Liver cancer) cells onto the extraembryonic membranes of developing chick eggs - the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay (4). One or two the most active ITCs will be further encapsulated using nano-techniques (5).

Hypothesis: Some forms of ITC may have stronger bioactivity than that of SFN and nano-encapsulated ITCs may possess enhanced anti- angiogenetic, and anti-tumor activities.

There are 3 main objectives:
(i) to determine the effectiveness of selected ITCs on cell proliferation, apoptosis and autophagy.
(ii) to compare the bioactivity of nano encapsulated ITCs with non-encapsulated form on angiogenesis (tube formation) using 3D co-culture HUVECs and pericytes model.
(iii) to assess the effectiveness of the most effective ITCs (and in nano forms) on angiogensis and tumor growth using the in vivo CAM assay.

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

Type of programme: PhD

Project start date: January 2020

Mode of study: Full time

Location: UEA, Bob Champion Research & Education Building

Entry requirements: Acceptable first-degree subject areas including Biochemistry, Cell/Molecular Biology, Cancer Biology/Oncology, and Nutrition. The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Trust. Funding comprises Home/EU fees and an annual stipend of £14,777. Overseas applicants may apply but are required to fund the difference between home/EU and overseas tuition fees (in 2018/19 the difference is £14,090 for Norwich Medical School but fees are subject to an annual increase).


(1) Bao Y, Wang W, Zhou Z, Sun C. Benefits and risks of the hormetic effects of dietary isothiocyanates on cancer prevention. PLoS One. 2014; 9(12):e114764.

(2) Liu P, Atkinson SJ, Akbareian SE, Zhou Z, Munsterberg A, Robinson SD, Bao Y. Sulforaphane exerts anti-angiogenesis effects against hepatocellular carcinoma through inhibition of STAT3/HIF-1α/VEGF signalling. Sci Rep. 2017; 7(1):12651.

(3) Liu P, Behray M, Wang Q, Wang W, Zhou Z, Chao Y, Bao Y. Anti-cancer activities of allyl isothiocyanate and its conjugated silicon quantum dots. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1084.

(4) Storgard C, Mikolon D, Stupack DG. Angiogenesis assays in the chick CAM. Methods Mol Biol. 2005; 294:123-36.

(5) Wang Q, Bao Y, Ahire J, Chao Y. Co-encapsulation of biodegradable nanoparticles with silicon quantum dots and quercetin for monitored delivery. Adv Health Mater. 2013;2(3):459-66.

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