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  Disrupted SUMO signalling in epithelial cancers, implications for genome stability and response to therapy.

   Faculty of Biological Sciences

   Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The School of Molecular and Cellular Biology invites applications from prospective postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for a PhD in the academic year 2024/25.

Conjugating SUMOs1-3 (Small Ubiquitin-like Modifiers) to proteins has important roles in protein localisation, stability, and activity. SUMO signalling is implicated in a wide range of cellular processes. A small family of SUMO proteases (SENPs) remove SUMOs from proteins. When the balance between SUMOylation and deSUMOylation is disrupted, many cellular pathways can be affected. We have evidence that this occurs in several types of disease, including cancer.

Some cancers of the lung, head/neck, endometrium, and ovaries have a chromosomal amplification that includes SENP genes. This amplified region also includes important DNA repair enzymes. This project will look at the effects of the chromosomal amplification 3q, on the ability of cells to repair DNA damage caused by chemotherapy. The project will assess the contribution that 3q disrupted SUMO signalling has to chemotherapy response, and whether this can be exploited to treat cancer.

This project will use cutting edge molecular and cell biology techniques to interrogate DNA damage and SUMO signalling in cancers with and without chromosome 3q amplification. The lab is based in a newly renovated space co-located with ~12 molecular and cell biology research groups. The student will benefit from an excellent work environment supported by state-of-the-art research infrastructure within the faculty.


Applicants to research degree programmes should normally have at least a first class or an upper second class British Bachelors Honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline.

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Biological Sciences minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 6.0 overall, with no element less than 5.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 87 with the listening and reading element no less than 20, writing element no less than 21 and the speaking element no less than 22. 

How to apply

To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable)
  • Evidence of funding

To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Biological Sciences as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert

For information about the application process please contact the Faculty Admissions Team:


Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This project is open to applicants who have the funding to support their own studies or who have a sponsor who will cover these costs.


The deSUMOylase SENP2 coordinates homologous recombination and nonhomologous end joining by independent mechanisms. Alexander J Garvin, Alexandra K Walker, Ruth M Densham, Anoop Singh Chauhan, Helen R Stone, Hannah L Mackay, Mohammed Jamshad, Katarzyna Starowicz, Manuel Daza-Martin, George E Ronson, Alexander J Lanz, James F Beesley, Joanna R Morris. Genes Dev. 2019 Mar 1;33(5-6):333-347. doi: 10.1101/gad.321125.118.
The deSUMOylase SENP7 promotes chromatin relaxation for homologous recombination DNA repair. Alexander J Garvin, Ruth M Densham, Sarah A Blair-Reid, Kenny M Pratt, Helen R Stone, Daniel Weekes, Kirsty J Lawrence, Joanna R Morris. EMBO Rep. 2013 Nov;14(11):975-83. doi: 10.1038/embor.2013.141.
SUMO, a small, but powerful, regulator of double-strand break repair. Alexander J Garvin, Joanna R Morris. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Oct 5;372(1731):20160281.

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