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MRC DiMeN Doctoral Training Partnership: Understanding the genetics of melanoma by studying heritable risk factors

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  • Full or part time
    Dr Mark Iles
    Prof T Bishop
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and its incidence has risen faster than any other common cancer - a five-fold increase since 1975. Melanoma is highly heritable and, uniquely amongst cancers, it has several highly heritable risk factors, including pigmentation, mole count and telomere length. Genetic association studies of melanoma risk have identified 20 associated genetic regions and the vast majority of these have been associated with one of the three heritable factors. There is compelling evidence that there are many more genetic regions associated with melanoma risk through one of these three factors.

We propose conducting joint analyses of melanoma risk (based on >30,000 cases) and pigmentation (recorded in UK Biobank), naevus count (from a recent study of >50,000 individuals) and telomere length (data soon to be released by UK Biobank). This would result in increased power to identify novel genetic regions associated with melanoma risk, to estimate the contribution of each of these risk factors for melanoma and to develop genetic predictors of disease for each of these factors as well as provide insights into the interaction of these predictors in determining risk.

While genetic variants associated with melanoma risk have been subsequently tested to investigate their potential effect on related traits, such traits have not been used themselves to directly inform the analysis of the genetics of melanoma risk.

Candidates should have a good first degree in a relevant scientific discipline with a strong grasp of statistical analysis (either through formal qualification or experience). An interest in genetics is important, but no prior knowledge is required.

The group has an international reputation in the field of genetic epidemiology. Members of the section lead GenoMEL, the world’s largest melanoma genetics consortium and are part of large consortia studying the genetics of diseases such as testis cancer, colorectal cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Informal enquiries are encouraged and may be addressed to Dr Mark Iles ( [Email Address Removed] )

Benefits of being in the DiMeN DTP:
This project is part of the Discovery Medicine North Doctoral Training Partnership (DiMeN DTP), a diverse community of PhD students across the North of England researching the major health problems facing the world today. Our partner institutions (Universities of Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield) are internationally recognised as centres of research excellence and can offer you access to state-of the-art facilities to deliver high impact research.
We are very proud of our student-centred ethos and committed to supporting you throughout your PhD. As part of the DTP, we offer bespoke training in key skills sought after in early career researchers, as well as opportunities to broaden your career horizons in a range of non-academic sectors.
Being funded by the MRC means you can access additional funding for research placements, international training opportunities or internships in science policy, science communication and beyond. See how our current DiMeN students have benefited from this funding here:
Further information on the programme can be found on our website:

Funding Notes

Studentships are fully funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) for 3.5yrs
Stipend at national UKRI standard rate
Tuition fees
Research training and support grant (RTSG)
Travel allowance
Studentships commence: 1st October 2019.

To qualify, you must be a UK or EU citizen who has been resident in the UK/EU for 3 years prior to commencement. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least a 2.1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. All applications are scored blindly based on merit. Please read additional guidance here:
Good luck.


Law MH et al (2015) Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies five new susceptibility loci for cutaneous malignant melanoma Nat Genet 47(9):987-995

Barrett JH et al (2015) Fine mapping of genetic susceptibility loci for melanoma reveals a mixture of single variant and multiple variant regions. Int J Cancer 136(6):1351-1360

Iles MM et al (2014) The effect on melanoma risk of genes previously associated with telomere length. J Natl Cancer Inst 106(10). pii: dju267.

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