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Phytochemicals and Cancer Prevention (BAOU19CPRT2)

Project Description

Many phytochemicals have been shown to possess hormetic properties, i.e. to exert low dose stimulation and high dose inhibition of cell growth. We have previously shown that the dietary isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane (SFN) has such biphasic effects on cell proliferation, migration and angiogenesis (Bao et al., PloS One 2014; Liu et al., Sci Rep. 2017), whereas ITCs in nanoparticle form do not have this hormetic property (Liu et al., Sci Rep 2018). Co-encapsulation of cisplatin and SFN also produced a greater anti-cancer effect (unpublished data). In this PhD project, the mechanisms of the hormetic activities will be investigated using in vitro cell culture and in vivo chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) models. Key signalling pathways including those of Nrf2/Keap1, NF-κB and Sirtuin-FOXO will be an initial focus. Novel targets will be unveiled using RNA-Seq and Omics technology.

The results of this study will help to define whether isothiocyanates (at low doses) are a risk factor for cancer development, and if high doses may have greater potential in management of cancer. Furthermore, an improved understanding of the hormetic properties of these bioactive plant phytochemicals may help to realize their health-promoting potential in the field of cancer prevention.

For more information on the project’s supervisor, please visit:
Dr Yongping Bao:

Type of programme: PhD

Start date of project: April 2020

Mode of study: Full Time

Length of studentship (funded period): 3 years. Please note: 3 year studentships have a (non-funded) 1 year ‘registration only’ period.

Entry requirements: acceptable first degree subject areas: Biochemistry, Cell/Molecular Biology, Cancer Biology, and Nutrition.
The standard minimum entry requirement is 2:1 or above or a Masters degree.

Funding Notes

This PhD studentship is funded by the Cancer Prevention Research Trust. Funding comprises Home/EU fees and an annual stipend of £15,009. Overseas applicants may apply but are required to fund the difference between Home/EU and overseas tuition fees.


(1) Bao Y, Wang W, Zhou Z, Sun C. Benefits and risks of the hormetic effects of dietary isothiocyanates on cancer prevention. PLoS One. 2014; 9(12):e114764.

(2) Liu P, Atkinson SJ, Akbareian SE, Zhou Z, Munsterberg A, Robinson SD, Bao Y. Sulforaphane exerts anti-angiogenesis effects against hepatocellular carcinoma through inhibition of STAT3/HIF-1α/VEGF signalling. Sci Rep. 2017; 7(1):12651.

(3) Liu P, Behray M, Wang Q, Wang W, Zhou Z, Chao Y, Bao Y. Anti-cancer activities of allyl isothiocyanate and its conjugated silicon quantum dots. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):1084.

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