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The effect of drug-exposure during the perioperative period on breast cancer recurrence

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  • Full or part time
    Prof L Murray
    Dr F Bannon
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


The aim of this study is to estimate the effect of drug-exposures at surgery on breast cancer recurrence using statistical methodologies for maximising causal inference in observational datasets.

For an important minority of breast cancer patients their breast cancer recurs. An understanding of modifiable perioperative drug exposures is necessary to inform clinical practice and minimise local or distant disease recurrence.

The proposed study will use data available within the Northern Ireland (NI) Cancer Registry from 1,802 patients diagnosed in NI from 2009-2010 with early stage breast cancer (stage I-IIIa) who have undergone surgery.

Drawing on the literature and clinical experience, acyclic causal diagrams will be employed to identify variables involved (including confounders) in the causal pathway between perioperative drug exposures and breast cancer recurrence, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesic opioids, dexamethasone, and anaesthesia (regional vs general). The information on these variables will be obtained by review of the patients’ theatre and anaesthetic records.

Inverse probability-weighted analysis will estimate the parameters of a marginal structural model, and represent the causal effect of perioperative drug exposure on recurrence. The results will inform clinical practice in the perioperative period.


Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or higher Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant biomedical or life sciences subject.

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:

The English Language Unit (ELU) 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 from the ELU

Funding Notes


DEL Research Studentships

Eligibility for both fees and maintenance (£14,057 for 2015/16, 2016/17 TBC) depends on the applicants being either an ordinary UK resident or those EU residents who have lived permanently in the UK for the 3 years immediately preceding the start of the studentship.

Non UK residents who hold EU residency may also apply but if successful may receive fees only.

For further details re eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the following link:


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Public Health, website for further details about the Centre:

When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School.

Related Subjects

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