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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Examining the influence of inflammation and lifestyle on anti-tumour immunity in men with prostate cancer

Department for Health

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Dr James Turner No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

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 17 studentships for entry in October 2021.

+++ Note: Full funding may not be available for all applicants. Please see the Funding Notes below for more information +++

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. More information may be found here:


Dr James Turner (lead), University of Bath, Department for Health
Dr John Campbell, University of Bath, Department for Health
Prof Richard Martin, University of Bristol, Medical School, Population Health Sciences
Prof Athene Lane, University of Bristol, Medical School, Population Health Sciences



In the UK, the number of men with, and who die of, prostate cancer has been rising. There are now 48,487 new prostate cancers diagnosed each year and 11,714 men die annually from the disease. Although new therapies are improving clinical outcomes, increasing emphasis is being placed on understanding how lifestyle factors influence disease pathogenesis. Strong evidence shows that regular exercise for example, improves quality of life, reduces fatigue and limits incontinence in men with prostate cancer. Moreover, evidence from a range of cancers shows that regular exercise exerts anti-tumour effects, which may reduce the risk of developing cancer in the first place and may improve outcomes (such as cancer-related progression and death) in patients. The mechanisms by which lifestyle influences anti-tumour immunity are not well understood. However, it is likely that inflammation has a central role, interacting with one set of mechanisms that are stimulated by single exercise bouts, and also interacting with different mechanisms brought about by long-term regular exercise. For example, the short-term effects of exercise include neuroendocrine activation and transient changes to immune cell trafficking, whereas long-term regular exercise impacts overall immune profiles and immune-competency.


This interdisciplinary research has two work packages. In the first work package, serum from 110 men with prostate cancer randomised into a long-term (6-month) exercise intervention trial will enable systemic pro-inflammatory processes to be investigated in relation to exercise and disease progression (The Pre-EMpT randomised clinical trial; BRISTOL). In addition, paired pre- and post-intervention samples of immune cells collected in a sub-group of 20-30 men will enable exercise-related changes in cellular immune-competency to be explored. The second work package will recruit healthy men and patients with prostate cancer on a “watch and wait” treatment regimen to take part in a mechanistic single-bout exercise study examining anti-tumour immunity (BATH). All men will be monitored over 12 months to examine immune function, and in those patients with prostate cancer, disease progression assessed. In both work packages, cutting-edge laboratory techniques (BATH) will be used in parallel with advanced statistical methods and bioinformatics (BRISTOL).


This studentship will provide thorough training at four levels of scientific investigation: (1) analysis of physiological processes and disease at the molecular level, such as assessing inflammatory factors implicated in tumour growth; (2) phenotypic and functional analysis of immunity at the cellular level with flow cytometry and cell culture techniques; (3) measurements at the whole-body level, such as assessing cardiorespiratory fitness and body composition or monitoring and prescribing exercise; (4) statistical and bioinformatics assessment of all study data. Important generic research skills will also be developed (e.g. scientific writing, presentation skills, wider dissemination of research etc).


Applicants 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 from 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

Studentships cover tuition fees at the ‘Home’ level, research/training costs and a stipend (£15,285 p.a., 2020/21 rate) for 3.5 years.

The main categories of candidates normally eligible for 'Home' fees are:
UK nationals*
Irish nationals living in the UK/Ireland
Applicants with settled or pre-settled* status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme
Applicants with indefinite leave to enter/remain in the UK

* must have lived in the UK/EEA/Switzerland continuously since September 2018.

Those not meeting the nationality and residency requirements to be treated as a ‘Home’ student may apply for a limited number of full studentships for international students.

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