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Precision Medicine DTP - High-Precision Tools for Intraoperative Brain Cancer Surgery

Project Description


Glioblastomas are one of the most common and aggressive brain cancers. Current treatments provide a mean survival of 14 months, with most tumours recurring post-resection. Optical agents to aid resection are penetrating routine clinical use but improvements are needed in both sensitivity and specificity to better identify and remove malignant cells.

Our strategy is to harness the metabolic signature of tumour cells to develop a molecularly- targeted approach for safer and more precise intraoperative resection of brain tumours. The ability to accomplish this has been hindered by the lack of molecular tools that retain the properties of natural metabolites. We have now invented a new class of non-invasive optical agents that function as both fluorophore and photosensitizers, enabling effective optical imaging and light-induced resection.

We aim to perform a metabolomic study of patient-derived glioblastoma cell lines under different activation states and in culture media mimicking in vivo physiological conditions. This will allow us to identify metabolites that are highly taken up. Subsequently, we will create optical agents derived from these metabolites and assess their efficacy in fresh tumour tissue samples from surgical resections. We will finally prepare for translation and clinical readiness of the lead compounds together with EM Imaging enabling us to move this technology into early phase clinical trials to provide patient benefit as quickly as possible.

Our main aim is to combine metabolomics, chemistry and imaging to develop a panel of biomarkers to characterise metabolic signatures of glioblastoma and translate them into a decision-making tool for high precision brain cancer surgery.

Training outcomes

Generic and transferable skills provided by the supervisory team:

* Development of an in vitro metabolomic platform for the selection and optimisation of agents.

* Data analysis and management, mining skills and bioinformatics.

* Design and characterisation of light-activatable metabolites.

* Cell culture, microscopy, flow cytometry, functional assays and immunohistochemistry.

* Assessment of optimal agents in ex vivo human tissues.

* Image analysis (qualitative and quantitative).

* Research ethics and health and safety skills.

* Target Product Profile based on current standard of care, health economics data and technical feasibility (with Medical Innovations Team and EM Imaging).

* Participation in the development of marketing strategy through competitive landscape and future emerging technologies (with Medical Innovations Team and EM Imaging).

* Study IP landscape and freedom to operate. Secure emerging IP, including paper and patent writing.

* Communication skills.

* Training in GMP-compliant facilities.

This MRC programme is joint between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. You will be registered at the host institution of the primary supervisor detailed in your project selection.

All applications should be made via the University of Edinburgh, irrespective of project location. For those applying to a University of Glasgow project, your application along with any supporting documents will be shared with University of Glasgow.

Please note, you must apply to one of the projects and you must contact the primary supervisor prior to making your application. Additional information on the application process is available from the link above.

For more information about Precision Medicine visit:

Funding Notes

Start: September 2020

Qualifications criteria: Applicants applying for a MRC DTP in Precision Medicine studentship must have obtained, or will soon obtain, a first or upper-second class UK honours degree or equivalent non-UK qualification, in an appropriate science/technology area.
Residence criteria: The MRC DTP in Precision Medicine grant provides tuition fees and stipend of at least £15,009 (RCUK rate 2019/20) for UK and EU nationals that meet all required eligibility criteria.

Full eligibility details are available: View Website

Enquiries regarding programme:

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