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(MCRC Non-Clinical) The feasibility, benefits and risks of heart sparing strategies in lung cancer radiotherapy

Project Description

Project summary:
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK. Patients are often frail with multiple co-morbidities, making them unsuitable for surgery. Radiotherapy, alone or in combination with chemotherapy, is one of the most important treatment options available to these patients. Recent evidence shows, however, that incidental radiation dose to heart substructures during radiotherapy is associated with premature treatment-related death. Our studies estimate that reducing the dose to the heart may improve survival by 10-20%. Unfortunately, changing the way in which patients are treated to spare the heart will likely increase the dose in the lungs and other healthy tissues, which may also cause adverse effects for patients. This project will investigate the clinical feasibility and potential benefits, risks and challenges of introducing different heart sparing radiotherapy techniques and technologies for lung cancer patients. This will lead to the world’s first clinical implementation of optimized heart substructure sparing radiotherapy.

The study will use data from a prospective observational study closely monitoring the cardiac impact of thoracic radiotherapy. Cardiac imaging and blood borne biomarkers from the study will be used to identify cardiac injury and determine the associated radiobiological risk factors. These findings will be generalized and validated through extension to real world datasets of routinely treated patients (>2000 patients). The radiobiological factors determined by these analyses will then be used in combination with lung and oesophageal models to evaluate the expected effects of different heart sparing techniques, including the use of cutting edge technologies such as the MR-Linac and Proton Beam Therapy being considered for lung treatments. These data will be used to suggest optimal heart dose planning constraints for clinical use and explore the feasibility of practically implementing the techniques.

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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