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Nanoparticle synthesis and application in magnetic field hyperthermia for cancer therapy


   Faculty of Life Sciences


About the Project

Magnetic field hyperthermia (MFH) is currently undergoing clinical trials for use in humans. The research to date has shown the effectiveness of the approach in cells and animal models and the initial results from human trials are promising. However, there are gaps in the knowledge that need to be filled before MFH can become a front-line cancer therapy. This project aims at addressing one of these gaps by looking, for the first time, at MFH in tumour spheroids. Tumour spheroids are model systems that are used in cancer research. They represent the start of the tumour growth when single cells come together to initiate the larger structures. They are important as they allow researchers to investigate how therapy options will function as the cells start to communicate and respond as a colony rather than an individual and this more closely relates to in vivo systems. As they can be readily imaged using confocal imaging techniques, events at the single cell level throughout the spheroid can be evaluated through the application of bioassays to look at e.g. apoptosis and cell signalling events.

In this work we aim to address three fundamental questions:

How do the NPs interact with the spheroids?

  • Do they remain on the cell surface or are they actively transported into the cells?
  • Do they remain in the outer layer of cells or are they transported to the spheroid core?

What happens to the NPs once a heating cycle has finished?

  • Do they remain active and attach or are they taken up into new cells?
  • Do they become deactivated and lose their heating potential?
  • Are they effective in further heating cycles without the need to inject new NPs?

How do the NPs kill the spheroids?

  • Is this from the outside in, one layer at a time?
  • Is this from the core out (which would suggest a role for hypoxia)?
  • Can we control this by active targeting and surface modification of the NPs?

Novelty and timeliness

MFH has reached a new phase of development. Clinical trials are underway and small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) are looking to capitalise on IP and future growth. It is now time for academic research to establish the MoA involved in cell death and continue to push this technology to become a frontline cancer treatment. The project will achieve this by answering the questions regarding the differences observed in different cancer types and extend this for the first time to spheroids. To date, there has been no large-scale study to map the susceptibility of different cancer cell types to MFH and no work at all on MFH in spheroids. It is essential that when mapping the response of different cancer cell types that the same magnetic system and NPs are used. This will allow the different susceptibilities to be identified and used for future work.


Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project; applicants will be expected to pay their own fees or have a suitable source of third-party funding. A bench fee may also apply to this project, in addition to the tuition fees. UK students may be able to apply for a Doctoral Loan from Student Finance for financial support.

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