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Understanding the biology of male breast cancer to identify more precise ways to inform clinical decision making for personalised treatment strategies.

   School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition

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  Prof Valerie Speirs, Dr R Abu Eid  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Breast cancer (BC) affects both genders but remains understudied in men. This is a concern; research from our and other laboratories show a rise in the number of men receiving a breast cancer diagnosis over the last 3 decades. Explanations for this increasing incidence are at best speculative. Men are frequently excluded from clinical trials with only around 1:3 recruited to phase I dropping to just 1:5 for phase III. Consequently, our knowledge of the biology/natural history of BC in men and how this is treated; currently the same as female BC, is extremely limited. Emerging molecular pathology and transcriptomics data from our lab supports the notion that BC may not be identical between genders. There is a need for a comprehensive study of male BC, using sufficiently large numbers of cases to determine its biology. Development of suitable in vitro models, which do not exist currently, would also allow much needed functional studies.

Genomic and transcriptomic studies of male BC are limited to interrogation of at best 100s of cases, unlike female BC where many 1000s of tissue samples are available to study. This can result in low statistical power but can be improved significantly by combining data from multiple studies. This is now possible through advances in bioinformatics, enabling cross-platform integration and correction of experimental variation, significantly increasing the number of cases available to study, generating data that allow new hypotheses to be investigated.

This project will adopt a multi-faceted approach using cutting edge techniques to provide mechanistic insight into the rare male BC. You will receive training in bespoke bioinformatics analysis techniques to conduct correlative assessment of our own and existing published data on male BC. You will apply this data to identify which genes to pursue in functional analysis, firstly by examining the impact of these genes and their pathways on clinical outcome in >700 cases of male BC (one of the largest collections in the world) using immunohistochemistry, analysing these using digital pathology algorithms. You will also develop novel in vitro systems to model male BC, using human tissue donated to specialist biobanks and use these to conduct functional studies on the genes/pathways identified from the bioinformatics work, using methods such as shRNA and CRISPR, migration and invasion assays.

This is a rare opportunity to develop valuable, transferable, skills whilst working on an understudied cancer, which will provide new information on the biology and behaviour of breast cancer in men.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of MEDICAL SCIENCES. Formal applications can be completed online: You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Sciences, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing.


Candidates should contact the lead supervisor to discuss the project in advance of submitting an application, as supervisors will be expected to provide a letter of support for suitable applicants. Candidates will be informed after the application deadline if they have been shortlisted for interview. Interviews are expected to take place on 23rd or 24th July 2019.

Funding Notes

This project is part of a competition funded by the Institute of Medical Sciences. Full funding is available to UK/EU candidates only. Overseas candidates can apply for this studentship but will have to find additional funding to cover the difference between overseas and home fees (approximately £15,680 per annum).

Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered provided they have a Merit/Commendation/Distinction at Masters level.

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