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PhD studentship - Pre-clinical models to study the immune - oncology of hepatocellular carcinoma

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, December 31, 2018
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Number of awards:


Start date and duration:

March 2019 for 4 years.


This studentship is funded as part of the CRUK/ FC AECC/ IARC Accelerator awarded ‘HUNTER: Hepatocellular Carcinoma Network’. HUNTER includes 11 collaborating centres in UK, Spain and Italy, all working towards understanding the roles of liver immune environment that enables and promotes the development and progression of Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC).

HCC is the commonest primary liver cancer and mortality attributed to it is rising dramatically in Europe. Immunotherapies have the potential to change that, but emerging data suggests that they (checkpoint inhibitors presently) only work for about 15% of patients. We want to identify novel approaches, but also to understand how to predict response, monitor response and switch non-responders into responders. Patient recruitment and tissues collection will be a big part of HUNTER, but this studentship is particularly aimed at creating relevant pre-clinical models to aid the understanding, but also to test different ‘personalised’ therapeutic approaches. A key focus will be the creation and characterisation of the MISTRG mouse – which has a humanised immune system – so that we can induce (diet, carcinogens, genetic manipulation) or transplant (cell lines, patient derived xenografts, organoids) HCC tissues and then assess the impact of different human immunotherapy strategies. Being able to work with mice is an essential component of this studentship project and previous experience will be a key consideration.

The student will attend three resident HUNTER schools (Cambridge – How to create organoids; Glasgow – Understanding, developing and using relevant pre-clinical models; Barcelona – one week focused, or three weeks including hands on exposure to translational medicine for HCC and the role of bioinformatics), attend the 6 monthly HUNTER collaborator research meetings in the different centres, as well have the opportunity to take part in exchange placements with any of the other centres, in order to enhance collaborations, individual training and career progression. The centre, number and duration of exchanges will be negotiable, but at least one within the UK will be essential. (HUNTER Centres in the UK: Newcastle; Glasgow (The Beatson CRUK Centre, Owen Sansom, Tom Bird); Cambridge (The Gurdon Institute, Meri Huch, Matt Hoare); Birmingham (Shish Shetty; Stefan Hubscher); Southampton (Salim Khakoo; Marcel Utz); UCL (Tim Meyer; Mala Maini); KCL (Alberto Sanchez Fueyo).


Cancer Research UK.

Name of supervisor(s):

Professor Helen Reeves (, Dr Caroline Wilson (, Professor Fiona Oakley (, Professor Derek Mann (

Eligibility Criteria:

This award is available to UK and EU applicants only.

How to apply:

You must apply through the University’s online postgraduate application system. To do this please ‘Create a new account’ (

Only mandatory fields need to be completed. However, you will need to include the following information:
•insert the programme code 8300F in the programme of study section
•select ‘PhD in the Faculty of Medical Sciences – Cancer Research’ as the programme of study
•insert the studentship code CR088 in the studentship/partnership reference field
•attach a covering letter and CV no more than two pages for each. The covering letter must state the title of the studentship, quote the studentship reference code CR088 and state how your interests and experience relate to the project
•attach degree transcripts and certificates and, if English is not your first language, a copy of your English language qualifications

Funding Notes

The award covers fees for 4 years and a stipend of £19,000 per year. Running expenses are £13,500 for 3 years and £6,750 for the 4th year, when the student will have the final 6 months for writing up their thesis.

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