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Platelets: a potential useful clinical biomarker of cancer recurrence – if the timing is right

Institute of Clinical Trials and Methodology (ICTM)

Prof Ruth Langley , Dr Fay Cafferty Monday, May 17, 2021 Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

What is the Project?

There has been a known association between thrombosis (blood clotting) and the development of cancer for over 150 years. Studies suggest a positive feedback loop where the presence of cancer increases platelet numbers (thrombocytosis) and in turn platelets increase further malignant growth through the production of growth factors and angiogenic stimuli.

There have been a limited number of clinical studies looking at the utility of platelet counts to predict cancer recurrence previously, but these have largely not considered other factors that affect platelet number and have taken one-off measurements, for example at diagnosis, and correlated this with long-term outcome. This project will focus on a more specific question (and potentially overlooked opportunity) – can platelet counts be used as a monitoring tool to identify patients at increased risk of tumour recurrence/tumour activity at a time when platelet counts should be relatively stable, and as a more short-term predictor of clinical developments. 

This PhD aims to evaluate whether platelet counts could be used as part of a monitoring strategy to direct the use of further tests and imaging, and potentially identify patients at increased risk of tumour recurrence/tumour activity at an earlier stage.

Who are the ICTM and the MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL?

The MRC CTU at UCL is at the forefront of resolving internationally important questions in infectious diseases and cancer, and delivering swifter and more effective translation of scientific research into patient benefits. It does this by carrying out challenging and innovative studies, and developing and implementing methodological advances in study design, conduct and analysis. You will be joining a team of renowned experts in the field of clinical trials.


Ideally, the candidate would have a primary degree and post-graduate qualification in a science subject and interst or experience in clinical trials. Clinical and statistical support/advice would be provided from within the Unit.

How to apply & Additional information

Who are the supervisors? The supervisory team Professor Ruth Langley and Dr Fay Cafferty. You will also be supported by a Thesis Committee (TC), which will provide degree-spanning support and advice about academic and training progress for the successful candidate over the course of the Doctoral study.

When can I start? Successful candidates are expected to commence studies in October 2021

What funding is available? We have funding available for up to 3 full time studentships in line with the current UKRI PhD studentship level. Successful candidates will be eligible to receive the equivalent of (UK) student fees and stipend.

How do I apply? We would encourage you to speak to Dr Fay Cafferty (email: ) in the first instance for further information. Applications by CV and covering letter should be sent to 

Deadline for applications: 17 May 2021.

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