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Development of novel inhibitors for the treatment of Glioblastomas

About This PhD Project

Project Description


Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common form of brain tumour in adults and is incurable. Despite optimal treatment consisting of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, median survival is 15 month. Responses to treatments are inevitably followed by relapse. Increasing evidence supports the hypothesis that this is driven by a population of glioblastoma stem‐like cells (GSCs) which are resistant to the conventional therapies and subsequently give rise to new tumours (Ahmed et al. Cancer Res. 2015. 75(20):4416-28). Therefore new approaches that eliminate GSC are required if long term tumour control and/or cure is to be achieved.

We have conducted a high through put screen using two repurposing drug libraries which have identified several agents that are specifically toxic against the GSC population. Importantly, these hit compounds have no activity against a panel of non‐malignant and malignant human cell lines, and had no previous indication for use in GBMs. Thus the PhD project now seeks to validate these compounds in a number of GSC cultures in order to evaluate their potential as novel therapeutics for the treatment of GBMs.

The prospective student will be based in the newly developed postgraduate research laboratory in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical sciences with access to advance cell culture, cell imaging and flow cytometry facilities. This project will synergise with existing projects in the laboratory in the areas of Cancer metabolomics and 3D cell modelling under the supervision of Dr Shafiq Ahmed. Further information about the groups’ research can be found at

Project aim

The aim of the project is to validate, characterise and develop novel small molecule inhibitors as potential therapeutics for the treatment of Glioblastoma

Research impact

The survival of glioblastoma patients has marginally improved over the last 3 decade. The alkylating agent temozolomide is the only recognised mainstay chemotherapeutic for the treatment of GBM. However, there is emerging data that GSCs are more resistant to chemotherapy. Thus there is an urgent need to develop new therapeutics that can target the GSC population to improve the outcomes of GBM patients.

Entry Requirements

Expressions of interests are invited from self-funded full time applicants. The normal entry requirement is a UK First or 2:1 honours degree or a UK Master’s degree in a relevant Life Sciences degree. Equivalent international qualification may also acceptable. Overseas applicant must supply IELTS (British Council) Test: Minimum score level 6 in each of the four areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking with overall minimum score 6.5 issued within the last 2 years or degree certificate from UK or other English-language university awarded in last 2 years.

Information on PhD study, university fees, and making an application can be found at Start dates are 1 October, 1 February, and 1 May.

All international students studying at postgraduate level are awarded a £1,500 scholarship in each year of study. This is automatically applied to reduce the total annual tuition fee. The University of Sunderland is an eligible institution for U.S. (Federal School Code: G35073) and Canadian (EI Code: PUFL) Student Finance Programmes. UK students also have the opportunity to apply for the recently established government postgraduate loans to cover living costs and fees (

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