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  The role of genomic instability on the tumour microenvironment and therapeutic response in breast cancer metastases

   Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute

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  Prof Greg Hannon  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This is a unique opportunity for PhD study in the world-leading Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute (CRUK CI) to start a research career in an environment committed to training outstanding cancer research scientists of the future. The Institute has excellent state-of-the-art facilities and research ranges from basic biology and computational biology through to translational cancer research and clinical application.

Postgraduate students play a pivotal role in the continuing success of our research programmes. If you are interested in contributing to our success, please find further information at:

Professor Greg Hannon and Dr Ian Cannell wish to recruit a student to work on the project entitled: The role of genomic instability on the tumour microenvironment and therapeutic response in breast cancer metastases

For further information about the research group, including their most recent publications, please visit their website:

Project details:

There is an opportunity for a talented student to join the interdisciplinary laboratory of Professor Greg Hannon located at the CRUK Cambridge Institute, University of Cambridge. The Hannon laboratory has a long-standing interest in RNA biology and cancer research, and a strong history of developing new tools to address cutting-edge questions in these fields. As part of the IMAXT Cancer Research UK Grand Challenge international collaboration, the lab has lead the way in spatial imaging of tumours and established a suite of technologies to interrogate tumour heterogeneity and the tumour microenvironment.

The successful applicant will work as part of a collaborative team of scientists from the Hannon lab and the lab of Professor Sam Aparicio (University of British Columbia) investigating how distinct mechanisms of genomic instability alter the interactions between tumour cells and the tumour microenvironment in metastatic breast cancer. The tumour microenvironment (TME), which consists of immune cells, fibroblasts, endothelial cells and other non-cancer cells, impacts all aspects of cancer progression from tumour initiation, through to metastatic spread and response to therapy. While many studies have focussed on the interactions with the TME within the primary tumour, very little is known about the impact of the TME on the growth and therapeutic response of metastatic lesions. Since the vast majority of cancer-related deaths are due to metastatic disease, insights gained from these studies have the potential to guide the choice of treatment or the development of novel treatments for patients presenting with metastatic cancer.

Over the course of the project, the successful applicant will utilise a range of cutting-edge technologies including CRISPR, single cell transcriptomic sequencing, spatial transcriptomics and imaging mass cytometry to map the TME and spatial organisation of metastatic lesions in mouse models of breast cancer. There will also be opportunities to be involved in experiments investigating the genetic evolution and clonal architecture of the metastatic lesions using the latest single cell genomic sequencing and genetic barcode-based clonal lineage tracing methods, developed in the Aparicio and Hannon labs respectively.

Preferred skills/knowledge:

The ideal candidate would have a strong background in genetics, molecular biology and/or biochemistry, with an interest in technology development, cancer biology and single cell sequencing-based methods. A minimum of 6 months of practical research experience is required, preferably in molecular biology. The successful candidate is expected to drive their own independent research project while also working closely with other team members. Excellent communication, record keeping, organisational, time-management and problem-solving skills are required. The project will involve mouse models and bioinformatics. No prior experience in these areas is required as all necessary training will be provided, but a willingness to learn is essential.


Please indicate that you wish to be considered for funding by answering ‘Yes – I wish to apply for funding’ on your application form. By ticking ‘yes’ you will be considered for a number of funds, including US Department of Defense (DOD) grant funding held jointly by Professors Hannon and Aparicio that includes full funding for University and College fees and in addition, a stipend currently of £21,000 per annum, initially for 3 years, with funding for a further year as required.

How to apply:

Please apply using the University Applicant Portal. For further information about the course and to access the applicant portal, go to:

Please select to commence study in Michaelmas term 2024 (October 2024).

To complete your on-line application, you need to provide the following:

Reference Request: The names and contact details of two academic referees who have agreed to act on your behalf.

Course Specific Question: Your statement of interest (limit of 2,500 characters) should explain why you wish to be considered for the studentship and which qualities and experience you will bring to the role. Please also state how you learned of the studentship.

Supporting Document: Please upload your CV (PDF file), which should include a list of the examinations taken at undergraduate level and if possible, your examination results


The closing date for applications is 13 November 2023 with interviews expected to take place in the week beginning 15 January 2024.

Biological Sciences (4)

Funding Notes

No nationality restrictions apply to the available funded studentships. Applications are invited from recent graduates or final year undergraduates who hold or expect to gain a first/upper second-class degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject from any recognised university worldwide. Applicants with relevant research experience, gained through Master’s study or while working in a laboratory, are strongly encouraged to apply.


1. Wild SA, et al. (2022). Clonal transcriptomics identifies mechanisms of chemoresistance and empowers rational design of combination therapies. Elife.
2. Funnell R, et al. (2022). Single-cell genomic variation induced by mutational processes in cancer. Nature.
3. Wang XQ, el al. (2023). Spatial predictors of immunotherapy response in triple-negative breast cancer. Nature.

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