Pancreatic cancer is one the most common causes of cancer death in the world. One characteristic of pancreatic cancer in humans is the presence of a dense fibrous stroma which may comprise up to 80% of the tumour mass. Even though chemotherapeutic agents such as gemcitabine have been shown to be effective in cells in-vitro, their effectiveness in treating patients has been disappointing due to limited blood perfusion and insufficient drug delivery to the tumour in-vivo. Drug transport to solid tumours is severely hindered by the barrier presented by the tumour vascular endothelium, which can prevent transport across vasculature walls into surrounding tissue. Furthermore, transport through interstitial space within a tumour occurs either via diffusion or by convection via the tumour vasculature. However, the highly heterogeneous vasculature in most solid tumours can result in high concentrations of drug in one part of a tumour but not in another, causing difficulties in treating cancer cells located distal to blood vessels.
PhD project description
Our proposed approach is to apply focused ultrasound using image guidance to enhance the transport of therapeutic agents across vessel walls and their delivery to areas of the tumour with low vascular density. We aim to understand underlying mechanisms of the effects (micro-streaming, cavitation) of focused ultrasound in tissues (healthy and neoplasms) and use this understanding to design better therapies.
The aim of this research project will be to develop an ultrasound-mediated drug delivery method that can be used to (a) release chemotherapy drug encapsulated in thermo-sensitive liposomes at the tumour site, (b) increase drug accumulation in the tumour through hyperthermia and (c) enhance the penetration of the drug through the tumour by using radiation force and microstreaming.
We will develop treatment plans to optimise drug delivery based on a thorough understanding of the underlying physics by bringing together expertise in biomedical ultrasound, mathematical modelling, vascular flows, tumour imaging, drug delivery systems and pancreatic surgery.
Applicants must have a first degree in an appropriate engineering discipline (e.g. Mechanical or Medical Physics), or Applied Physics. Proficiency in applied mathematics, Matlab or other programming experience are a distinct advantage. Only students with a good First degree, or who are expecting to receive one, and/or an MSc degree with distinction will be considered.
This funding is only for UK and EU passport holders. Please refer to the following website for eligibility criteria: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospectivestudents/graduate/research/degrees/mechanical-engineering-mphil-phd
Eligible applicants should contact Prof Nader Saffari ([email protected]
) enclosing a cover letter (including the names and contact details of two referees), one-page research statement and two pages CV. The supervisory team will arrange interviews for short-listed candidates. After interview, the successful candidate will be required to formally apply online via the UCL website.
Closing Date and Start Date
We will be continuously having informal discussion until this position is filled.