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University of Portsmouth Featured PhD Programmes
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Developing a controlled release biodegradable platform for nanomedicine delivery


School of Pharmacy

, Prof Helen McCarthy Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Approximately 20-30% of prostate cancer (PC) patients initially diagnosed with intermediate favourable disease will develop treatment failure. However, innovative treatments would help improve cure rates. Heavy metal nanoparticles (e.g. gold) enhance effectiveness of radiotherapy, by compressing the radiation dose deposition field, limiting damage to normal tissue. The clinical potential of metal nanoparticles as radiosensitisers are now emerging (Act.In.Sarc (phase 2/3) and NANO-RAD (phase 1)). Indeed, a recent Lancet Oncology communication reported a 50% increase in complete pathological response of soft tissue sarcomas when radiotherapy was combined with metal nanoparticles (Act.In.Sarc). Despite these advancements, maximum nanoparticle radiosensitisation is limited by two confounding factors, poor intra-tumoural and poor intra-cellular delivery. Utilising the RALA drug delivery system, Coulter and McCarthy have developed a combined gold nanoparticle formulation (RALA/AuNP) capable of delivering the gold nanoparticle directly to the nucleus, resulting in highly significant increases in tumour radiation sensitivity. This clearly addresses the problem of intra-cellular delivery.

This project will address the issue of poor intra-tumoural delivery though the development of a novel controlled release (CR) platform, impregnated with RALA/AuNP. Using materials such as biodegradable hydrogels or electrospun nano-fibres, the appointed student will characterise RALA/AuNP loading and release rates, aiming to achieve release characteristics that align with clinical radiotherapy treatment plans. Furthermore, the student will undertake a range of established in vitro and in vivo cell and molecular biology based assays to established the effectiveness of the released nanoparticles as effective anti-cancer agents.

This projects forms part of an exciting collaborative partnership between Dr Jonathan Coulter, a prostate cancer expert in translational medicine and Professor McCarthy, a nucleic acids drug delivery expert and CEO of Phion Therapeutics.

Funding Notes

Applicants should have a 1st or 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Molecular Biology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline. Students who have a 2.2 honours degree and a Master’s degree may also be considered, but the School reserves the right to shortlist for interview only those applicants who have demonstrated high academic attainment to date.

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