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Clinical and molecular correlates of response to first line treatment in oral lichen planus


Project Description

Oral lichen planus is a chronic disease of the lining of the mouth that causes pain and increases the risk of oral cancer. The negative impact of oral lichen planus on quality of life has been proven. Treatment is essential to relieve pain, and in turn reverse the adverse effect on quality of life. There is evidence to suggest that the higher risk of oral cancer in oral lichen planus patients compared to the general population is further enhanced in the more aggressive form of the disease. Therefore effective disease control may decrease the oral cancer risk.

First line treatment of oral lichen planus is through steroids applied directly to the affected areas of the lining of the mouth but this treatment often does not work for patients suffering from severe disease. Unfortunately, most of the knowledge regarding the factors that determine response to treatment is experiential and not supported by formal evidence. Thus there are no guidelines for the management of patients who do not respond to first line topical steroids.

This project aims to determine the clinical and molecular factors associated with response to first line treatment in oral lichen planus.
The study of clinical factors will include host characteristics known to influence the course of the disease according to current evidence in Oral Medicine and Dermatology practice. The study of molecular factors will be primarily based on analyses of the oral microbiome.
These characteristics will be correlated to disease levels on completion of topical steroid treatment to identify factors predictive of suboptimal response.

Findings of this project will enhance existing guidelines relating to the use of topical steroids to factor patient characteristics that have an adverse effect on response. This will turn enhance the effectiveness of treatment protocols and inform the development of new strategies to improve disease control.

BREADTH OF TRAINING
Through this PhD project the candidate will build knowledge of a clinically important research area while gaining expertise of a broad range of research methodologies and generic skills.
-Research-specific training: ‘Good Research Practice’ for involvement of patients in research studies and ethical use of patient data and clinical samples, molecular biology elements relevant to microbiome analyses, bioinformatics for microbial diversity.-Generic skills training: laboratory safety, medical statistical methods, writing for publication, verbal presentation, thesis writing.

RESEARCH ENVIRONMENT
The candidate will join an enthusiastic team of clinicians and clinical researchers in the Department of Oral Medicine at the Institute of Dentistry and the Oral Maxillofacial service at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. Both units are responsible for the care of patients suffering from oral lichen planus in the North-East of Scotland (population of 0.5 million people), and hence will provide ample patient recruitment capacity. The candidate will benefit of the mentorship of senior peers involved in clinical research studies ongoing in these units.
The student will join our vibrant research group in the Infection & Immunity research programme at the Institute of Medical Sciences. They will conduct experiments in a fully-equipped containment level 2 research laboratory and have access to the Centre for Genome Enabled Biology & Medicine who will support the candidate in bioinformatics studies. The student will also benefit from experience/knowledge exchange opportunities with PhD students and research fellows and will be exposed to a rich programme of research seminars from local, national and international researchers.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:
This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of DENTISTRY. Formal applications can be completed online: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php. You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Dentistry, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.

NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR AND EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 3 applications for funded projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship. An Elphinstone Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees only, whether home, EU or overseas.

For details of fees: View Website

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a First Class Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Distinction at Masters level.

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