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Function of stroma-derived gas6 in pancreatic cancer progression and metastasis

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, March 25, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Pancreatic cancer develops in the pancreas, yet cancer cells spread aggressively to distant sites in our body, a process called metastasis, where they can form metastatic tumours. Metastasis is a multi-stage process that starts with the migration, invasion and extravasation of tumour cells into the blood stream, followed by the colonization of distant organs by tumour cells, and finally survival and proliferation of cancer cells at the metastatic site.

Pancreatic cancer is a lethal disease, in part due to its aggressive metastatic nature and current therapies, which mainly target the cancer cells, are not very effective. Pancreatic cancer is characterised by a rich tumour stroma that can represent up to 80% of the tumour mass and is not a simple bystander. In fact, we and others have shown that the tumour stroma affects cancer progression, metastasis and resistance to therapies.

Emerging evidence suggests that the different steps of the metastatic cascade are shaped by the interaction between cancer cells and stroma/immune cells. However, the molecular mechanisms by which tumour-stroma-immune cell interactions regulate the metastatic process remain unclear. A better understanding of molecular mechanism underlying tumour-stroma interactions is critical to develop better therapies against metastatic cancer and to improve patient survival.

This PhD project will explore the interactions of immune cells and fibroblast populations with tumour cells in pancreatic tumours and will aim to understand how these interactions regulate metastasis and response to therapies. To perform this study, the PhD candidate will have the opportunity to learn and employ a number of different techniques including, 3D co-culture models, confocal microscopy, proteomics and in vivo tumour models.

The PhD candidate will also benefit from our close collaborations with our clinical colleagues at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, allowing to perform many of these studies on primary material from patients.

We offer:
You will join a vibrant cancer research laboratory which is part of the North West Cancer Research Centre, Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, and the Institute of Translational Medicine at the University of Liverpool. Our research group has a long standing interest in studying the tumour-stroma interactions in cancer. You will learn the necessary skills from senior researchers of the team to ensure high quality training and you will meet with your supervisor Dr Ainhoa Mielgo, at least once a week, to design and troubleshoot experiments, to analyse and interpret data, and to discuss future directions of the project. This PhD project provides exceptional opportunities for the student to benefit from diverse expertise and to be exposed to cutting edge technologies that we have already established.

We expect:
It is expected that you will be a highly motivated individual with an interest in learning and applying your research skills to an exciting project. Applicants should have a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant subject (i.e. cancer biology, molecular biology, and/or biomedical sciences) and some experience of working in a laboratory. You should be highly motivated to pursue a PhD training and should be able to work individually and also as part of a team. You will also be expected to generate good quality rigorous data to make them available to the society and advance scientific knowledge via publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Please note the University of Liverpool’s English Language Requirement for EU and International Students is an IELTS score of 6.5 with no band score lower than 5.5.

Closing date for applications: 25th March 2019

Anticipated starting date of project: 1st December 2019

How to apply:
Please send the following documents as a single PDF file to

1. Cover letter
2. CV
3. Names and contact details of three references

Informal enquires may be made to Dr Ainhoa Mielgo, email or visit: http://www.mielgolab.org.

Funding Notes

This position is funded by North West Cancer Research for 3 years. The successful candidate will be affiliated to the University of Liverpool. The successful applicant will be awarded a non-taxable & national insurance free annual stipend of £19,000/annum plus payment of University tuition and bench fees.

Applications can only be accepted from Home/EU students.

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