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Cancer Research UK funded 4 year studentship: Characterising the immune signatures that drive the evolution of follicular lymphoma from pre-malignant to malignant states


Project Description

We are looking for a graduate with an interest in molecular biology and cancer biology, with, or expecting, at least an upper second class honours degree in an associated biological discipline for this project involving the detailed characterisation of immune signatures in follicular lympoma. An MSc qualification in a cancer-related discipline and/or prior laboratory experience would be highly advantageous.

The project will commence in September/October 2019 and has funding for 4 years.

The student will be based primarily at the Barts Cancer Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD), Charterhouse Square in the City of London.

Project Outline:
The PhD student will be part of and funded through an exciting and ambitious Cancer Research UK Accelerator Programme (https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers/research-features/2018-09-13-detecting-blood-cancers-earlier-than-ever-before) focused on compiling encyclopaedic genomic, epigenomic and immune signatures of haematological cancers as they evolve from early benign into late malignant states. The student will work closely with scientists and bioinformaticians on parallel molecular, computational and specialised mouse modelling studies as part of this programme within the UK and benefit from the rich collaborative network with opportunities to attend focus workshops and undertake rotations between other participating sites in Spain and Italy to maximise transfer of knowledge.

The focus of this studentship will be on Follicular lymphoma (FL), an incurable and the most prevalent indolent lymphoma worldwide. Patients display marked heterogeneity in clinical behaviour and outcomes with approximately 25% of patients following an aggressive disease course, with less than half of these patients being alive after 5 years. Genetically, FL tumours are hallmarked by the chromosomal translocation, t(14;18), that leads to overexpression of BCL2, together with mutations targeting epigenetic regulators. Although, the primary focus in the field has been on the tumour genetics, these tumours appear highly dependent on cues from the tumour microenvironment (TME) and the host’s immune system. The development of many cancers including FL follow a highly protracted evolutionary course, beginning several years prior to the development of overt disease. In this context, the contribution of the tumour immune microenvironment as a co-driver of oncogenic transformation from benign to malignant disease states, how it sustains therapy-resistant residual disease clones and its role as a critical Achilles’ heel for these tumours have not been thoroughly investigated.

In this PhD project, the successful candidate will characterise the immune signatures and determine how these influence different disease states, for example pre-malignant versus overt FL, low risk versus aggressive disease and minimal residual disease states. This will be achieved by high-dimensional profiling of the TME utilising state-of-the-art experimental techniques including CyTOF, repertoire sequencing and single cell transcriptomic analyses on FL patient samples. This information will facilitate the identification of biomarkers of FL initiation and progression and the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies.

For more information, including how to apply, please see:
https://www.bci.qmul.ac.uk/en/study-with-us/postgraduate-research/cruk-accelerator-4-year-phd-studentships

Funding Notes

This studentship includes the following funding for 4 years:
- An annual stipend of £21,000
- Tuition fees at the Home/EU rate
- Project consumables

How good is research at Queen Mary University of London in Clinical Medicine?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 144.11

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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