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PhD Studentship: Biomechanical activation of pro-metastatic programs in circulating tumour cells by vasculature constriction forces.

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  • Full or part time
    Dr S Au
    Dr C Bakal
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The Au Laboratory (Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London) and Bakal Laboratory (Institute of Cancer Research) are seeking a PhD candidate to explore the role of the vasculature biomechanics on cancer metastasis. The successful candidate will be dual-appointed at Imperial College London and the Institute of Cancer Research and will advance the state of the art at the intersection of organ-on-chip technologies and cancer metastasis.

90% of cancer associated deaths are a result of metastasis, but we still do not understand many of the fundamental mechanisms that drive this process. Of the billions of cancer cells that escape from tumours over the course of a most diseases, only a small minority of these cells eventually establish metastatic tumours. The goal this project is to develop microfluidic vasculature-on-chip platforms to explore how factors, such as biomechanical forces exerted on cancer cells in the circulation, select cells to successfully metastasise through the activation of the cGAS/STING signaling axis. These platforms will then be used for high throughput screening to identify candidate molecules that may lead to the development novel metastasis preventing drugs. Because of the tremendous burden of metastasis, a metastasis-inhibiting therapeutic has the potential to save millions of lives.

Vasculature-on-chip platforms will be developed and fabricated in the Au Laboratory at Imperial College London, which has expertise developing microfluidics as tools for investigating cancer. These platforms are designed to mimic the unique microenvironment present in the human body and have precisely tuned mechanical/fluidic environments that make them ideal tools for studying microscale biomechanics.

Cell line engineering and genomic/proteomic analyses will be conducted in the Bakal Laboratory at the Institute of Cancer Research’s Chelsea Beatty campus, which has expertise in investigating the influence of cancer cell shape on their function using high content screening and molecular techniques.

Upon completion of the PhD, the successful candidate will be uniquely equipped for high-demand careers within academia or industry with desirable skills in a) Bioengineering including organ-on-chip device development, cleanroom microfabrication, computer-assisted design, computational modeling and b) Cancer Cell Biology including cell-line engineering (CRISPR-mediated tagging), quantitative live-cell imaging, genomic and proteomic analyses, drug screening, statistical analysis and in vivo cancer models.

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Download a PDF of the complete project proposal:

Funding Notes

This Cancer Research UK sponsored studentship is fully funded and the successful candidate will receive an annual stipend, currently £21,000 per annum, and project costs paid for the four-year duration. The funding covers course fees at the Home/EU rates (funding for overseas fees is not provided).

Candidate profile

Eligible candidates should be independently motivated, have good oral/written communication abilities, work well in teams and have obtained a master’s (merit or distinction) or bachelor’s (2.1 or first class) degree in engineering, life sciences, physical sciences or other relevant field. Laboratory experience and proficiency in microfluidics/MEMS, cancer biology and molecular techniques are highly desired.
**Motivated oversea students (non-UK/EU) are encouraged to discuss alternative funding routes with Dr. Au and Dr. Bakal directly.

How to apply

Full details about these studentship projects, and the online application form, are available on our website, at: Applications for all projects should be made online. Please ensure that you read and follow the application instructions very carefully.

Closing date: Monday 3rd December 2018

Please apply via the ICR vacancies web portal

email contact: [Email Address Removed]
supervisor emails [Email Address Removed] and [Email Address Removed]

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