Oncology: Evaluating Photodynamic Therapy in colorectal cancer using patient-derived organoids

   Faculty of Medicine and Health

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the 3rd most common cancer worldwide. Surgery is first line treatment and often in adjunct with chemotherapy. However, up to 20% of patients develop recurrent disease after treatment. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is an emerging anti-cancer treatment method, which can substantially improve the outcomes of treatment in CRC. PDT involves the administration of a photosensitising agent to cancers, followed by the irradiation of light to the cancer growth. This results in the activation of the photosensitising agent, eliciting cell death through the generation of reactive oxygen species and oxidative stress. This project will involve the investigation of PDT in CRC through the use of different in vitro models of CRC. Recently, it has been identified that 2D cell cultures are not adequate and efficient in providing reliable and clinically representative outcomes of treatment. This is due to the limited capacity and application of 2D cell cultures and their lack of representation of clinical cancers. 3D spheroidal cell cultures and more recently, patient-derived organoids have been identified as vastly more improved and better models of CRC to pre-clinically evaluate treatments.

 In this project, PDT will be evaluated in simple 2D monolayer and more advanced 3D spheroidal cell monocultures and co-cultures of CRC. In our laboratory, we culture patient-derived organoids, directly from CRC patients in Leeds and will be used in this PhD project to study PDT treatments. The candidate will liaise with the colorectal surgery team at St James Hospital to collect and process CRC tissue specimens from theatre into organoids. Organoids will be subjected to PDT and other cancer treatments and interrogated on a molecular level to identify novel markers of chemoresistance.

Techniques associated with this project:

Cell line and tissue culturing, patient-derived organoid culturing, cell viability assays, fluorescent microscopy, immunofluorescence, immunohistochemistry, western blotting, RT-PCR, single cell analyses, statistical analyses

This project is part of the International PhD Academy: Medical Research


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject.

Candidates whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements are:

  • British Council IELTS - score of 7.0 overall, with no element less than 6.5
  • TOEFL iBT - overall score of 100 with the listening and reading element no less than 22, writing element no less than 23 and the speaking element no less than 24.

How to apply:

Applications can be made at any time. To apply for this project applicants should complete an online application form and attach the following documentation to support their application. 

  • a full academic CV
  • degree certificate and transcripts of marks
  • Evidence that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements (if applicable)

To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;

  • Select PhD in Medicine, Health and Human Disease as your programme of study
  • Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to

Biological Sciences (4) Engineering (12) Medicine (26)

Funding Notes

This project is aimed at International applicants who are able to self fund their studies or who have a sponsor who will provide their funding.


Kim, W.S., Khot, M.I., Woo, H.M., Hong, S., Baek, D.H., Maisey, T., Daniels, B., Coletta, P.L., Yoon, B.J., Jayne, D.G. and Park, S.I., 2022. AI-enabled, implantable, multichannel wireless telemetry for photodynamic therapy. Nature communications, 13(1), pp.1-11.
Khot, M.I., Perry, S.L., Maisey, T., Armstrong, G., Andrew, H., Hughes, T.A., Kapur, N. and Jayne, D.G., 2018. Inhibiting ABCG2 could potentially enhance the efficacy of hypericin-mediated photodynamic therapy in spheroidal cell models of colorectal cancer. Photodiagnosis and photodynamic therapy, 23, pp.221-229.
Kondo, J., Endo, H., Okuyama, H., Ishikawa, O., Iishi, H., Tsujii, M., Ohue, M. and Inoue, M., 2011. Retaining cell–cell contact enables preparation and culture of spheroids composed of pure primary cancer cells from colorectal cancer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(15), pp.6235-6240.

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