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Investigating the mechanobiological mechanisms of cancer

Department of Biomedical Science

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Dr K Erdmann Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Cancer is the second-leading cause for death globally and there is a high demand for novel approaches to understand and treat cancer. Only recently it has become clear that mechanical forces play an important role in cancer initiation but in particular in cancer progression. Forces are for example exerted on cancer cells by the surrounding tissue and extracellular matrix, but the growing tumor is also generating mechanical forces itself. Currently, there are many open questions how these forces are sensed (mechanosensing) and how mechanical forces are translated into biochemical signalling. Targeting these signalling pathways is an important novel cancer therapy strategy. This project aims in particular to understand the role of extracellular matrix stiffness in tumor progression. The project will investigate the mechanisms how extracellular matrix stiffness is sensed, how it regulates mechanotransduction and how this contributes to cancer cell proliferation and migration. Our research will likely identify novel drug targets enabling innovative cancer therapy strategies.

Techniques: Live-confocal microscopy, super-resolution microscopy, 2D and 3D cell cultures, hydrogels of different stiffness, proximity biotinylation experiments combined with mass spectrometry, western-blotting, RNA-seq. experiments

Science Graduate School
As a PhD student in one of the science departments at the University of Sheffield, you’ll be part of the Science Graduate School. You’ll get access to training opportunities designed to support your career development by helping you gain professional skills that are essential in all areas of science. You’ll be able to learn how to recognise good research and research behaviour, improve your communication abilities and experience the breadth of technologies that are used in academia, industry and many related careers. Visit to learn more

Funding Notes

Entry requirements
First class or upper second 2(i) in a relevant subject. To formally apply for a PhD, you must complete the University's application form using the following link:

*All applicants should ensure that both references are uploaded onto their application as a decision will be unable to be made without this information*.


Mechanics, malignancy, and metastasis: the force journey of a tumor cell.
Kumar S, Weaver VM.
Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2009 Jun;28(1-2):113-27. doi: 10.1007/s10555-008-9173-4. Review.

The Physical and Biochemical Properties of the Extracellular Matrix Regulate Cell Fate.
Muncie JM, Weaver VM.
Curr Top Dev Biol. 2018;130:1-37. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2018.02.002. Epub 2018 Mar 21. Review.
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