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(MCRC Non-Clinical) Optimising proton radiotherapy for head and neck cancer patients

Project Description

Project summary:
Treatment of oropharyngeal cancer with chemo-radiotherapy results in a high incident of acute toxicities. This is particularly important for the increasing proportion of patients who are HPV positive as these are younger patients with a greater chance of survival. For these patients, such toxicities (for example fatigue, dry mouth, swallowing difficulties) can drastically reduce their quality of life. Potentially better treatment could be achieved with protons, where differences in how the dose is deposited could result in better sparing of normal tissue and therefore reduced toxicities. This project will use data from the TORPEdO trial, which will compare photon versus proton treatment for oropharyngeal cancer, the first of it’s kind in the UK. This data will allow optimal treatment strategies to be developed.

In this project we will investigate how best to deliver proton therapy for oropharyngeal patients. We will develop thresholds for when plans need to be adapted because of anatomical changes seen on the daily treatment image. Next, we will use our techniques in big data analysis of radiotherapy dose data to explore the relationships between the radiotherapy dose and anatomy. These techniques are able to identify organs and sub-regions of organs most strongly correlated with a given patient outcome. These methodologies can directly account for confounding variables in the analysis producing hazard maps as a function of anatomy. These analyses can be performed against each of the patient outcome and toxicity measures collected in the TORPEdO trial, developing a detailed understanding of the competing risks for these patients. Finally, we will use this data to develop models of normal tissue complication probabilities. By using the anatomical regions identified in the data mining analysis we can better optimise these models, and therefore treatment, for both photon and proton treatments enabling better treatment for future patients.

Entry Requirements:
Candidates must hold, or be about to obtain, a minimum upper second class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. A related master’s degree would be an advantage. Applications from all nationalities are welcome.

Funding Notes

The Studentship will cover an annual stipend (currently at £19,000 per annum), running expenses and PhD tuition fees at UK/EU rates. Where international student fees are payable, please provide evidence within your application of how the shortfall will be covered (approximately £19,000 per annum).

The length of this project will be FOUR YEARS.

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