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The development of Liquid Biopsy tests for the early detection and improved diagnosis of poor outcome cancers

   School of Medicine, Dentistry & Biomedical Sciences

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  Dr P Mullan, Dr Niamh Buckley, Prof Lorraine O'Driscoll  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Interviews will take place week beginning 1 August 2022

Studentship due to commence: 1 September 2022

Overall Project Summary: Blood tests, instead of invasive tissues biopsies, are becoming increasingly important for improved diagnosis and treatment approaches for cancer patients. Such blood tests are often called “Liquid Biopsies” and offer many advantages over tissue biopsies including being faster, cheaper, and more routinely available. Even if Liquid Biopsies do not fully replace all tissue biopsies, they could add benefit by enabling real time monitoring for tumour recurrence and treatment responses, contributing to improved patient outcomes and quality-of-life.

Increasing evidence by members of the All-Ireland Cancer Liquid Biopsies Consortium (CLuB) at Queen’s university Belfast (QUB) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and indicate that substantial information originating from tumours enter body fluids, such as the bloodstream, and so have potential as Liquid Biopsies, serving as non-invasive alternatives to surgical biopsies. These entities, include circulating tumour cells, circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and RNA; and extracellular vesicles containing cancer cell contents. Combining this multi-disciplinary expertise with expertise in big data analysis at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) as an emerging hub of excellence, CLuB will synergistically evaluate component parts of cancer liquid biopsies, assessing their individual relevance and the added value of their co-analysis towards the development of personalised profiles and optimal patient care.

What will the successful PhD candidate do? This student will be an important Team Member of CLuB. The student will build upon work developed at QUB, where researchers have identified multiple DNA methylation (DNAme) events in tumours, including early-stage tumours. These DNAme markers could serve as the basis of Liquid Biopsy tests for the improved diagnosis of Ovarian Cancers and other ‘difficult to diagnose’ cancers, such as Triple Negative Breast Cancers, Lung Cancers and Pancreatic Cancers. Training with also be available in bioinformatics and machine learning. The PhD student will work, on a day-to-day basis, with the Post-Doctoral Fellow appointed to CLuB and will be supervised by Dr Mullan.

The successful candidate will be strongly encouraged and supported in presenting his/her research at national of international conferences and publishing in peer-reviewed journals during the project.

Qualifications: First Class or 2.1 Honours (or equivalent) Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in a Life Sciences/bio-related subject such as Biomedical Sciences, Biochemistry, Human Biology, Bioengineering, Biotechnology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, or Pharmacy/Pharmacology.

Knowledge & Experience

A strong understanding of biology is required.

Knowledge of cancer research, molecular biology, epigenetics would be ideal.

Prior experience of PCR, and/or ddPCR, would be ideal, but not essential.

Further Details: Applicants should submit (i) a Cover Letter (2 page maximum) outlining your suitability for this position, and (ii) a full Curriculum Vitae. Both should be uploaded into application.

English Language

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score.

The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:

·        IELTS score of 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;

·        TOEFL score of 80+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20, Writing 17);

·        A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;

·        A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or

·        A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking.

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link:


INTO Queen’s English Language Courses offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained at: https://www.qub.ac.uk/International/International-students/Applying/University-Preparation-Courses/INTOEnglishlanguagecoursesatQueens/

Funding Notes

Funded by Higher Education Authority (HEA). The value of the award includes the cost of approved tuition fees and maintenance support (Fees (Home) £4,596, Stipend £15,880).
The studentship is open to applicants who are eligible for ‘Home’ fee status and that further details on qualifying for Home Fee Status can be found at https://www.qub.ac.uk/Study/Undergraduate/How-to-apply/Feestatus/


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, The Patrick G Johnston Centre for Cancer Research, website for further details about the Centre:

Please click on the 'Apply Now' button to apply.
When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School
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