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Cancer cell dynamics in various microenvironment

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

Project Description

Cancer growth is strongly influenced by cellular microenvironment. For example, genetically damaged cancer cells, that form tumors when grafted in adult bodies, stop malignant activities when implanted in embryos. Although embryos and cancer share similar features such as rapid growth, dynamic cell movement and changes in the differentiation state, embryos’ highly regulated morphogenesis contrasts with cancer’s aberrant growth and destructive cellular behaviour. What does make them different?

We employ in vitro 3D time-lapse system to reveal dynamics of cancer cells in defined conditions. For example, in co-culture of cancer cells and non-cancerous epithelial cells, we have revealed that cancer cells display a strong attraction to the non-cancerous epithelial cells, followed by engulfing and destruction of non-cancerous cells. Such aggressive cellular behavior is characteristic to cancer and was never seen in the conventional 2D culture (Ivers et al. and movies therein).

Using the 3D time-laps method, we will investigate the cancer cell dynamics in co-cultures with various origins, such as fibroblasts of embryonic versus adult origin. We first aim to recapitulate embryonic microenvironment that attenuates cancer-specific cellular behavior and then aim to elucidate the mechanism. Possible differences between adult and embryonic tissues are; the composition of extracellular matrix and growth factors that are produced mainly by fibroblasts, a lack of inflammatory response in embryos that would enhance cancer development, and differences in hormonal activity. By analysing cellular dynamics in various conditions in vitro, we aim to elucidate the mechanism whereby microenvironment attenuates the destructive cell behavior.

For further details and prior to applying online please email the project supervisor Nobue Itasaki directly on


Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project.
Entry requirements: First-class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.
Before applying on line, you are suggested to contact Dr Nobue Itasaki (email address is available on the University Website).
For information on international equivalent qualifications, please see the International Office website: View Website


Ivers, L.P. et al. Dynamic and influential interaction of cancer cells with normal epithelial cells in 3D culture. Cancer Cell International 14:108, 2014

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