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Evolution of copy number variation in cancer: tumour heterogeneity in mesothelioma

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer of the pleura, with poor prognosis. Unusually for a cancer, the cause is usually known, as it is almost always caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres. Despite the banning of asbestos in construction, this rare cancer is increasing in frequency in the UK, and is expected to increase in frequency in countries where asbestos is still in widespread use, such as China. At Leicester, we are a national centre for mesothelioma research with strong collaboration between biological and clinical colleagues.
Tumours, including mesothelioma, are highly heterogeneous. Mesothelioma is characterised by a large number of genomic deletions and amplifications, and we are currently identifying these deletions and amplification in multiple sites of the same tumour across different patients by exome sequencing. This allows us to reconstruct the evolution of each patient’s tumour and identify early mutations likely to drive proliferation of the tumour.

A PhD project in this area could span both bioinformatics approaches and wet-lab validation of results. For example, we would be interested in refining the copy number variants that occur early in the evolution of the tumour and determining the mutational mechanisms underlying these early mutations. We would also be interested in long read sequencing approaches, such as Oxford Nanopore, to characterise the extensive genomic rearrangements found in mesothelioma.

We are a diverse lab and department and particularly welcome applications for Ph.D. places from women, minority ethnic and other under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

International students with sponsorship are also welcome to apply for this project.


Yap TA, Aerts JG, Popat S, Fennell DA. Novel insights into mesothelioma
biology and implications for therapy. Nat Rev Cancer. 2017 Jul 25;17(8):475-488

McGranahan N, Swanton C. Clonal Heterogeneity and Tumor Evolution: Past,
Present, and the Future. Cell. 2017 Feb 9;168(4):613-628.

How good is research at University of Leicester in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 37.40

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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