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GW4 BioMed MRC DTP PhD studentship: Modelling parity-associated immunity against breast cancer

Department of Biology & Biochemistry

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.

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:


Prof Adele Murrell (lead), University of Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry
Prof Rosalind John, Cardiff University, School of Biosciences, Biomedicine
Prof Jean Van Den Elsen, University of Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry
Dr Julia Sero, University of Bath, Department of Biology & Biochemistry


Pregnancy imposes a risk of breast cancer in the mother. Paradoxically if a woman has a first full-term pregnancy before the age of 20, she is protected against some types of breast cancer. This PhD will model the impact of pregnancy on the maternal immune system and susceptibility to breast cancer, using a variety of models and techniques including, 3D-organoids, quantitative imaging, epigenetic/genome editing, and bioinformatics approaches. The hypothesis that we will be testing is whether placental factors produced by the developing fetus brings about epigenetic changes in the maternal mammary tissue that drives mammary gland development and whether these changes persist after the pregnancy to prevent malignant transformation. The project will be based at the University of Bath, with collaborative interactions in Cardiff and will suit students with interests in stem cells, developmental biology and cancer, epigenetic memory and immune systems, fetal-maternal interactions and mammary biology.


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 Biochemistry, Cell Biology or Biomedical Sciences. Any lab experience especially cell culture will be an advantage. Since this is a cross-disciplinary project, excellent communication skills are essential.

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

UK students will be considered for a full 3.5-year studentship consisting of UK tuition fees, a Research and Training Support Grant of £2000-£5000 per annum and a stipend (£15,285 per annum for 2020/21, updated each year).

International applicants (including EU applicants) are also eligible to apply but will be required to pay the difference between the Home UKRI tuition fee View Website and the applicable University of Bath Overseas tuition fee rate View Website. Confirmation of ability to fund the tuition fee difference will be required.


1: Medina D. Pregnancy protection of breast cancer: new insights reveal unanswered questions. Breast Cancer Res. 2013 May 8;15(3):103. doi:10.1186/bcr3414.

2: Santucci-Pereira J, et al. Mimicking pregnancy as a strategy for breast cancer prevention. Breast Cancer Manag. 2013 Jul1;2(4):283-294. doi: 10.2217/bmt.13.16.

3: Meier-Abt F, Bentires-Alj M. How pregnancy at early age protects agains tbreast cancer. Trends Mol Med. 2014 Mar;20(3):143-53. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2013.11.002.

4: Santucci-Pereira J, et al Genomic signature of parity in the breast of premenopausal women. Breast Cancer Res. 2019 Mar 28;21(1):46. doi:10.1186/s13058-019-1128-x.

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