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(EPSRC DTP) FLASHProton: Transforming radiotherapy in a FLASH

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  • Full or part time
    Prof K Kirkby
    Dr M Merchant
    Prof R Mackay
    Prof Norman Kirkby
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The success of radiotherapy (RT) in eradicating tumours depends chiefly on the total radiation dose, with higher doses curing more cancers. However, all RT treatments deliver some ‘collateral dose (damage)’ to normal tissues around the target. This results in every patient treated for cancer experiencing side-effects. These can be short term or can last indefinitely. As cancer has become much more treatable, helping patients live with and beyond cancer is becoming increasingly important: and this means reducing the side-effects they experience due to their treatment.

FLASH RT has the potential to provide a disruptive change in the way we deliver RT by significantly reducing these side-effects. By FLASH we mean delivering the radiation dose in fractions of a second compared to minutes for conventional RT treatment. Worldwide interest in the transformative potential of Flash stems from experimental results, which show remarkable reductions in normal tissue damage without compromising the tumour control. Because the normal tissue damage is significantly reduced we can potentially deliver more dose in each treatment, significantly reducing both the treatment time and the cost.

At the moment the way in which FLASH works in largely unknown, although there is growing evidence that it is linked it to local oxygen depletion during the radiation FLASH. We have been undertaking mathematical modelling studies (see Rothwell et al.) to understand the parameter space in which FLASH operates and this work is attracting considerable international interest and it is being used by Varian to inform their research on FLASH.

The Varian proton beam therapy (PBT) equipment installed in the Christie clinical PBT centre has the potential to deliver FLASH. In addition, we have a dedicated research room in the PBT clinical centre, this gives us access to PBT FLASH delivery using a clinical machine. We also have a purpose built high-throughput hypoxia end-station which allows us explore the oxygen depletion hypotheses (and other mechanisms). This is the first time that anyone in the world has been able to do such experiments with a clinical beam in an environment where the oxygen tension can be precisely controlled.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

On the online application form select PhD Biophysics. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website (

Funding Notes

EPSRC DTP studentship with funding for a duration of 3.5 years to commence in September 2020. The studentship covers UK/EU tuition fees and an annual minimum stipend £15,285 per annum. Due to funding restrictions, the studentship is open to UK and EU nationals with 3 years residency in the UK.

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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