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Studying the immune system in pancreatic cancer metastasis to find better therapies

   Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine

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  Prof Michael Schmid  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Pancreatic cancer develops in the pancreas, yet cancer cells spread aggressively to distant sites in our body, a process called metastasis, where they can form metastatic tumours. Pancreatic cancer most often spreads to the liver. We and others have shown that during pancreatic cancer metastasis, large numbers of immune cells accumulate at the metastatic site. While immune cells are able to kill cancer cells, this is unfortunately not the case during pancreatic cancer liver metastasis, and certain immune cell subpopulations can even promote the metastatic growth of cancer cells. Thus, inhibiting the tumour promoting functions of immune cells or even restoring their abilities to kill cancer cells represents a novel strategy to fight pancreatic cancer. However, the molecular mechanism how immune cells promote metastasis remain poorly understood.

This PhD project will explore the interactions of immune cell populations and cancer cells within the metastatic tumour microenvironment. It will employ a number of different techniques including single cell RNA sequencing, 3D co-culture models, confocal microscopy, and live cell imaging. In addition, we use mouse models of metastatic pancreatic cancer to translate findings from in vitro assays into an in-vivo scenario. The PhD candidate will also benefit from our close collaborations with clinical colleagues at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, allowing the validation of findings obtained during this PhD project in cancer patient samples.

We offer:

You will join a vibrant cancer research laboratory in the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, University of Liverpool run by Prof Michael Schmid (primary supervisor) and Dr Ainhoa Mielgo (secondary supervisor). This team has a long-standing interest in studying the tumour microenvironment in cancer. You will have opportunities to interact with medical doctors in the department to discuss the translational importance of your findings. You will learn the necessary laboratory skills from senior researchers in the team to assure high quality training and you will weekly meet with your supervisors to discuss the findings and future directions of the project. This PhD project provides exceptional opportunities for the student to benefit from diverse expertise and to be exposed to cutting edge techniques. 

We expect:

It is expected that you will be an innovative individual with an interest in applying your research skills to a challenging project. Applicants should have a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a relevant subject (i.e. cancer biology, molecular biology, immune-oncology, and/or biomedical sciences) and some experience of working in a laboratory. You should be highly motivated to pursue a PhD training and should be able to work as part of a team.

Additional reading:

Bellomo et al., Gut, 2022

Quaranta et al, Cancer Research, 2018

Nielsen et al., Nature Cell Biology, 2016 

Mielgo et al., CSH Perspect Med, 2020

Closing date for applications: 18th March 2023

Anticipated starting date of project: 1st September 2023

How to apply:

Please send the following documents as a single PDF file to [Email Address Removed]

1. Cover letter

2. CV

3. Names and contact details of three references 

Funding Notes

This position is funded by NWCR for the 3-year duration. The successful candidate will be affiliated to the University of Liverpool. The successful applicant will be awarded a non-taxable & national insurance free annual stipend of £21,000/annum plus payment of university tuition and bench fees.
Applications can only be accepted from Home/UK students.
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