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PhD in Immunology and Systems Immunology: An objective systems approach to dissect the contribution of macrophages to cancer growth and metastasis

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  • Full or part time
    Prof P Taylor
    Prof A Gallimore
    Dr T Connor
    Dr B Szomolay
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

An objective systems approach to dissect the contribution of macrophages to cancer growth and metastasis

A fully funded 4-year PhD Studentship is available in the Systems Immunity Research Institute, Cardiff that commences in October 2017.
The Systems Immunity University Research Institute ( provides an internationally competitive research environment that fosters mentorship and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. The Institute draws on the wealth of world-leading expertise in infection, immunity and big data across the College of Biomedical & Life Sciences and the College of Physical Sciences & Engineering. With currently active research awards in excess of £70M the institute represents excellence in immunological research.
Our Systems Immunity four year PhD programme is committed to providing an outstanding research environment and training for experimental, clinical and theoretical immunologists.
Our emphasis is on training a new generation of highly skilled interdisciplinary researchers equipped for the demands of increasingly common ’big data’ projects, specifically those utilising ’omics approaches, large clinical datasets and mathematical modelling.
We recruit from a broad profile of undergraduate disciplines, from the biological to computer sciences, and provide core training in bioinformatics and biostatistics or laboratory sciences drawn from our MSc courses, as appropriate for the individual student. All students are assigned mentors for the course of their studies as part of a proactive support structure.
Funding is awarded to the most competitive applicants and pays stipend (standard research council rates), fees (’home rate’ for UK and EU students) and consumables.
The students will be registered with the Cardiff Division of Infection and Immunity (, a large, lively and collaborative research environment with approximately 90 postgraduate students. Immunological and immunological-related research in is an area of significant strategic strength.

Brief description of project focus:
This interdisciplinary project involves biological models of cancer progression and therapeutic intervention, state-of-the-art single cell genomic technologies and mathematical modelling. It is part of well-funded internationally-recognised research programmes, supported by a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award and a Cancer Research UK programme grant. The project aims to better understand the interaction of immune cells in primary and metastatic cancers to identify novel immunotherapeutic avenues in cancer treatment.

Funding Notes

CV and Covering Letter required in the first instance (followed by a standard application for postgraduate study)


Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs due in part to the success of adoptive T cell therapy and checkpoint inhibitors which enable activation of tumour-specific effector T cells and destruction of previously incurable cancers. However, most patients undergoing these therapies do not exhibit objective responses. We hypothesize that one key reason for the limited success is that tumour-associated macrophages, collectively known as ‘TAM’, directly suppress anti-tumour T cell responses. This hypothesis is supported by reports documenting the role of macrophages in supporting tumour growth and invasiveness. We have recently demonstrated the molecular nature of macrophage-specialization in distinct tissue environments (1), however, the true nature of macrophage heterogeneity is unknown, especially in the context of tumours.
We hypothesize that understanding the cellular heterogeneity of the macrophage system at a single cell level in a tumour therapy/metastatic context will identify distinct macrophage populations with unique tumour supporting and metastatic roles and hence identify novel opportunities for therapeutic intervention, particularly when used as an adjunct to other therapies.
Using an in vivo model of cancer and associated therapeutic strategies in conjunction with state-of-the-art single cell sequencing and modelling approaches we will define factors that control primary tumour development and metastasis
We believe the work will be a first in the field, both from the perspective of macrophage characterization and combinatorial tumour therapies. We expect high impact publications from the opportunity to model macrophage dynamics in tumours in a therapeutic context and the project will provide diverse training in the cancer immunology.

1) Rosas et al., 2014. Science 344:645-8 (PMID: 24762537).

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FTE Category A staff submitted: 54.70

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