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Light activated nanotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer

   School of Chemistry

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  Dr M J Marin  No more applications being accepted  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a non-invasive therapeutic modality where the combination of light, oxygen and photosensitisers drugs leads to the generation of reactive oxygen species, predominantly singlet oxygen, that are able to destroy tumours and various infections by bacteria, fungi and viruses. The benefits of PDT can be further enhanced using nanoparticles. Advantages of using nanoformulations include the possibility of delivering the drug in a targeted manner – minimising the possible side effects; performing a controlled drug release at the tumour/infected site; and the possibility of delivering multiple therapies or for theranostic applications.

In this project, nanoparticles of different materials will be used for the targeted delivery of photosensitisers to treat cancer. Different means of functionalisation will be explored together with the use of different targeting agents. 

The student in the project will work at the exciting interface between materials, drug delivery and medicine. This project will involve the synthesis of different types of nanoparticles and their functionalisation with a variety of ligands exploring covalent and non-covalent routes of functionalisation. The student will gain knowledge in characterisation techniques including UV-Vis and fluorescence spectroscopies, dynamic light scattering and transmission and scanning electron microscopy. The student will also perform studies of light activation of the nanosystems both in solution and in cancer cells. For this last part, the student will get training on tissue culture, cytotoxicity assays and imaging techniques including confocal microscopy.


The project supervised by Dr Marín will be supported by her network of internal and external collaborators and the student will interact with other members of the group working on a variety of related projects. 

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at
A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. Applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) “Photosensitiser functionalised luminescent upconverting nanoparticles for efficient photodynamic therapy of breast cancer cells” M. Buchner, P. García Calavia, V. Muhr, A. Baeumner, T. Hirsch*, D. A. Russell and M. J. Marín* (*Corresponding Authors). Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 18, 1, 98-109 (2019)
ii) "Towards optimisation of surface enhanced photodynamic therapy of breast cancer cells using gold nanoparticle-photosensitiser conjugates" P. García Calavia, M. J. Marín, I. Chambrier, M. J. Cook and D. A. Russell. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 17, 3, 281-289 (2018)
iii) “Water soluble multifunctional antibody-porphyrin-functionalised gold nanoparticles for targeted photodynamic therapy” O. Penon, M. J. Marín,* D. A. Russell and Ll. Pérez-García* (*Corresponding Authors). J. Colloid Interface Sci. 496, 100-110 (2017)
iv) “Delivery of a hydrophobic phthalocyanine photosensitizer using PEGylated gold nanoparticle conjugates for the in vivo photodynamic therapy of amelanotic melanoma” M. Camerin, M. Moreno, M. J. Marín, C. L. Schofield, I. Chambrier, M. J. Cook, O. Coppellotti, G. Jori and D. A. Russell. Photochem. Photobiol. Sci. 15, 5, 618-625 (2016)
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