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  MscR: Understanding tumour immune suppression using three-dimensional tumour target cell culture

   School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

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  Prof C Wuelfing  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Cytotoxic T cells have the potential to effectively kill tumour target cells. However, in the tumour microenvironment this potential is substantially suppressed. Overcoming tumour-mediated immune suppression is one of the most important and exciting new therapies in cancer. We have established a mouse model that recapitulates this suppression. Using this mouse model, we have established that tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes can bind to their tumour targets but don’t maintain the cell couples well, thus leading to diminished target cell killing. We now characterise molecular mediators of such tumour-mediated suppression of cytotoxic T cell function. While the tumour model provides physiological relevance, working with in vivo tumours is labour and time intensive. Therefore, we build three-dimensional spheroids of the tumour target cells in vitro. We have already shown that cytotoxic T cells infiltrate and kill the spheroids some and acquire a suppressed phenotype that is very similar to tumour-infiltrating lymphocytes. We think of these spheroids as a simplified tumour, with comparable three-dimensional structure and metabolic constraints but without the vasculature and the full range of infiltrating immune cells. They offer full experimental control and therefore defined mechanistic insight. Importantly, using such spheroids we have now extended our strategy to investigate cytotoxic T cell suppression to human cells. For the project you will use the spheroids to investigate molecular mechanisms of tumour immune suppression, e.g. the role of T cell inhibitory receptors such as Tim-3, soluble mediators such as adenosine or competition for glucose. You may use the in vivo tumour model to corroborate key findings.

MSc by Research (MScR) is a 1-year research degree that provides an intensive lab-based training and a preparation for PhD study. You will carry out your studies as part of your research group – like a PhD student does. Towards the end of the year, you write up a thesis on your research and are examined on this. This degree suits students wanting to gain maximum research experience in preparation for PhD applications.   

We are keen to recruit a diverse range of students and to ensure our research is open to all. We particularly welcome applications from groups traditionally under-represented in life sciences research. Please check the University webpages for the current tuition fee information. Most MScR projects also require a bench fee. This varies depending on the research and your project supervisor can tell you the bench fee for the project. 

Please contact Prof. Wuelfing ([Email Address Removed]) by email directly for information about the project.

How to apply: 

You should apply to the Faculty of Life Sciences, School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine selecting the programme Cellular and Molecular Medicine MSc by Research. 

Please ensure you upload all supporting documents as per the admissions statement (which applies to both PhD and MScR programmes): PhD Cellular and Molecular Medicine | Study at Bristol | University of Bristol.  

Clearly indicate the supervisor's name and project title in the relevant section of the application form. 

The system will not allow you to submit your application without uploading a document to the research statement section.  Where this is an optional requirement, please upload a blank Word document which is headed “No research statement required”. 

Applications are accepted all year round. However, the preferred entry points for study are September / January / April / July. 

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

This project is for students who can fund the project themselves; however, you are eligible to apply for a University of Bristol Think Big Postgraduate Award ( If you are a UK student from a Black background, then you are eligible to apply for an Opportunity Bristol Scholarship (
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