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Developing new models of lung cancer spread to bone to test therapeutic combinations

Department of Oncology and Metabolism

About the Project

This project aims to generate novel models that can be used to study how lung cancer spreads to the skeleton and how this can be modified by therapies.

Background to the project: As new therapies result in better primary tumour control and improved survival times, patients with Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) will increasingly experience tumour spread to bone (bone metastasis). There is currently a lack of understanding of the biology underpinning bone metastasis in lung cancer, with few suitable models available to study this process. In order to improve outcome for patients, there is an urgent need to develop good models that can be used to investigate the effects of novel drugs used to treat NSCLC (like immunotherapies), alone and in combination with bone-targeted agents. With extensive experience of modelling of solid tumour metastasis, in particular in bone, and with strong expertise in the treatment of lung cancer, we are ideally placed to develop and characterise complex models of NSCLC.

Project Aim:
To establish and characterise immunocompetent models of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer and to use these to establish the effects of therapeutic agents on tumour growth in lung and bone.

Once established, these model(s) will be used to test the effects of a range of therapeutic agents currently used to treat NSCLC, in order to determine if the models can capture response to established therapies. Subsequently, effects of combination therapy will be studied, with addition of a bone-targeted agent when appropriate. Taken together, this project will generate novel models of NSCLC suitable for studies of therapeutic combinations, including immunotherapies. Ultimately the project aims to establish models that can be used in pre-clinical trials of novel treatment regimens for NSCLC, helping to improve patient quality of life and survival.

About the team: This project is suitable for applicants with an interest in lung cancer and/or bone biology. You will be part of the highly successful bone oncology group in the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research, joining a team of post docs, technicians and students all investigating how cancer spreads to bone and how this can be modified by new therapeutic agents and combinations. The project is a collaboration between scientists leading studies of bone metastases (Dr Penelope Ottewell and Prof Ingunn Holen) and clinicians with expertise in treatment of lung cancer (Prof Sarah Danson and Dr Robin Young), highly experienced at supervising PhD students.

Training: You will gain experience in use of a number of different cutting-edge methods (molecular and cell biology, use of complex model systems) to study how cancer cells spread to bone. All PhD students at the University of Sheffield complete a compulsory wide-ranging doctoral training programme. This includes literature searches, scientific writing, how to structure a thesis, research ethics, statistical analyses, science communication and presentation skills, as well as a number of modules tailored to the skills and interests of the individual student. Full training will be provided; to carry out this project, you must also obtain a personal UK Home Office license for animal work, involving a training course followed by a test of understanding and competencies.

Funding Notes

This project is open for self-funded students only.


Entry Requirements:
Candidates must have a first or upper second class honors degree or significant relevant research experience.

Interested candidates should in the first instance contact Prof Ingunn Holen ([email protected])

How to apply:
Please complete a University Postgraduate Research Application form available here:

Please clearly state the prospective main supervisor in the respective box and select Department of Oncology and Metabolism as the department.

Proposed start date - March 2021

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