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Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Featured PhD Programmes

Extracellular vesicles shaping the bowel cancer microbiome

Biomolecular Sciences Research Centre

Dr N J Peake , Dr M Lacey , Dr S Forbes Wednesday, September 30, 2020 Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Project details:

It is clear that the microbial ecology of the gut plays a key role in health and disease. Dysbiosis of the microbiome and changes in the formation of biofilms within the gut correlates with a range of diseases, including bowel cancer, raising the possibility that disrupting microbial dysfunction could be a useful treatment strategy.

Our team has established a research programme to develop the isolation and characterisation of extracellular vesicles (EVs) from bowel cancer cells, and to investigate their functional role. Building on this, we have recently demonstrated that EVs released by bowel cancer cells appear to alter the behaviour of bacteria, altering growth, biofilm formation and pathogenicity of E. coli.

In this project, we will evaluate the uptake and impact of healthy and cancer-derived EVs on a range of relevant bacterial gut species using an array of phenotypic markers (growth, biofilm formation, pathogenicity), and genomic and transcriptomic analysis. We will characterise this host-driven microbiological regulation and the cross-talk between microbiome and gut through EVs in bowel cancer, investigating the novel hypothesis that regulatory RNA within EVs may directly target bacterial transcriptomes. Finally, we will undertake proof-of-concept studies to determine whether exercise can alter regulatory EV cargo, altering this interaction with the microbiome and potentially reducing the risk of bowel cancer.

Research Environment:

This multi-disciplinary project will bridge between the Disease Mechanisms and Molecular Microbiology themes within the Biomolecular Research Centre at SHU, taking advantage of the fully equipped cell culture and microbiology facilities. Dr Peake is the cell culture lead and will provide project-specific training in the culture of bowel cancer models, and the student will benefit from the support of Dr Peake’s EV team to develop the methods for bulk EV isolation, purification and characterisation. Dr Lacey and Dr Forbes are experienced microbiologists and will provide training and guidance on all microbiology-based experimentation and nucleic-acid sequencing. The student will also have the opportunity to work with project partners at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) who will provide support to investigate exercise intervention, and will collaborate with Dr Gavin Humphrey’s research group at The University of Manchester who will support bioinformatic analysis of microbial populations.

Further information on the studentships and how to apply can be found here: BMRC GTA Studentships

The Biomolecular Research Centre conducts research activity in several key areas:

• Disease mechanisms

• Bioanalytical Science

• Molecular Microbiology

• Chemistry

• Biomaterials

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 staff from the BMRC were returned in the Biological Sciences unit of assessment (UoA5) with 46 per cent of our research being rated as world leading or internationally excellent (4* or 3*).

In 2012 the BMRC was awarded an Athena SWAN Silver Award, which was renewed in 2016 then again in 2019, for 3 years. Athena SWAN is a charter to advance women’s careers in STEM subjects. The award recognises and celebrates good practice in recruiting, retaining and promoting women in STEM subject areas within higher education.

As a research centre we offer a vibrant community in which postgraduate researchers work closely with academics to develop their knowledge and expertise. We have a community of approximately 45 postgraduate students in BMRC who are at the heart of contributing to our research output. All doctoral students are supported by a comprehensive programme of doctoral training and encouraged to present their research at national and international conferences.

To apply, or for queries regarding the application process and eligibility, please contact . For specific details about the project or for help with your proposal contact

To view the GTA homepage with full details of the studentship please follow this link: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/program/graduate-teaching-assistantships-available-in-the-biomolecular-science-research-centre/?p5017

Funding Notes

This GTA studentship is 3.5 years, and will include full UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,285. For international applicants, the shortfall between the Home and Overseas fees must be covered by the student.

Entry requirements:
• A first-class or upper second-class honours degree in a related discipline, or a distinction at MSc.
• Experience working in a research laboratory in a relevant field.
• Excellent communication in English (speaking and writing).
• Ability to work independently and within a team.
• Highly motivated and committed to conducting high quality research.
• Excellent time management.

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