Investigating the clinical and molecular significance of the microbiome in breast cancer


   School of Pharmacy

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  Dr Niamh Buckley, Prof Michael Tunney  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Breast Cancer (BC) is the most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 15% of new cancer cases. There is a significant unmet clinical need to understand why some cancers do not respond to treatment and what drives metastasis.

With the advent of next-generation sequencing, we have an unprecedented ability to study tumour and host genomes as well as those of the vast array of microorganisms that exist within living organisms. Evidence now suggests that these microbes may confer susceptibility to certain cancers and may also influence response to therapeutics and metastatic potential. Recently, a unique microbiome has been identified in the breast – a site previously thought to be sterile. Furthermore, a number of studies have shown significant differences in the bacteria present in BC and normal breast suggesting that microbial dysbiosis may contribute to BC development and progression.

We hypothesise that the microbiome, and specifically bacteria, associated with BC can have a significant impact the cancer cell and tumour microenvironment thereby impacting key phenotypes such as chemotherapy response and metastasis. By better understanding the molecular consequences of the presence of the bacteria, we can develop prognostic/predictive biomarkers and/or novel therapeutic strategies to improve BC outcome.

This project will investigate the clinical and molecular consequences of bacterial colonisation integrating molecular pathology, in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches using both patient samples and cell lines providing the student with a range of molecular biology and bioinformatic skills to tackle a highly translational research question with real potential for impact.

This project will investigate the clinical and molecular consequences of bacterial colonisation integrating molecular pathology, in silico, in vitro and in vivo approaches using both patient samples and cell lines providing the student with a range of molecular biology and bioinformatic skills to tackle a highly translational research question with real potential for impact.

This project has significant potential for impact on the management of breast cancer and specifically secondary breast cancer.

Research will be shared at national and international conferences as well as outreach activities including the annual patient information event organised by Dr Buckley in collaboration with Action Cancer and BRCALinkNI

Research findings will be published in high impact journals and relevant resources/data made available to the wider research community as appropriate.

Home applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

1st or 2.1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Relevant subjects include Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Biochemistry, Biological/Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Engineering, or a closely related discipline.

International applicants must meet the following academic criteria:

IELTS (or equivalent) of 7.0, a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) and a master’s degree in a relevant subject.

Applicants should apply through the University's Direct Application Portal: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php


Biological Sciences (4) Medicine (26)

 About the Project