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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Development of a cancer-on-a-chip device to study the role of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-6 and immune cell tumour infiltration in breast cancer

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

Project Description

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the ‘GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership’ which is offering up to 18 studentships for entry in September 2020.

The DTP brings together the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to develop the next generation of biomedical researchers. Students will have access to the combined research strengths, training expertise and resources of the four research-intensive universities.


Lead supervisor: Dr Ute Jungwirth, Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, University of Bath
Co-supervisors: Dr James Turner (Bath), Dr Pedro Estrela (Bath), Dr Claire Perks (Bristol) and Prof Matt Smalley (Cardiff)


In this interdisciplinary PhD project, we will develop a cancer-on-a chip microfluidic device to study interactions between tumour cells and the microenvironment. The aim is to maximise the output from tissue samples, integrate biosensors and develop assays for monitoring the recruitment of circulating immune cells. The microfluidic device will be combined with in vitro and in vivo models as well as patient samples for systematic investigation of the mechanistic role IGFBP6 has in breast cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the most abundant cancers worldwide. In 20% of patients, tumour cells will escape to other parts of the body and lead to secondary cancers (metastases), which correlates with poor prognosis and has limited treatment options. Tumour progression involves crosstalk between tumour cells and the tumour microenvironment (fibroblasts, immune cells and extracellular matrix). Studying cancer cells in 2D cultures often does not represent the complex microenvironment and there is a necessity to develop better models for preclinical testing and understanding tumour progression. 3D cultures and microfluidic devices have been shown to improve physiological relevance of cancer models and better predict therapeutic response.

The PhD studentship will provide interdisciplinary cutting-edge training. One part will include training in designing, simulating and manufacturing a microfluidic cancer-on-a-chip device in the Centre for Biosensors, Bioelectronics & Biodevices (C3Bio) at the University of Bath (Dr Estrela, Dr Moschou). The second part focuses on the study of the role of IGFBP6 in breast cancer and the use of the device. The student will receive training in cancer cell biology, a range of molecular & cell biology techniques, including 2D & 3D co-cultures, immune functions at the cellular level, and techniques, such as flow cytometry and patient sample analysis (Dr Jungwirth, Dr Turner, Bath). IGF/IGFBP signalling analysis will be supported by Dr Perks (Bristol). Prof Smalley (Cardiff) will provide in vivo sample preparation & organoid culture training.


Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an area appropriate to the skills requirements of the project.

IMPORTANT: In order to apply for this project, you should apply using the DTP’s online application form:

You do NOT need to apply to the University of Bath at this stage – only those applicants who are successful in obtaining an offer of funding form the DTP will be required to submit an application to study at Bath.

More information on the application process may be found here:


Funding Notes

A full studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees, a Research and Training Support Grant of £2-5k and a stipend (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated each year) for 3.5 years.

UK and EU applicants who have been residing in the UK since September 2017 will be eligible for a full award; a limited number of studentships may be available to EU applicants not meeting the residency requirement. Applicants who are classed as Overseas for tuition fee purposes are not eligible for funding.

More information on eligibility may be found here: View Website

How good is research at University of Bath in Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.20

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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