Cancer Biology: Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Biomimetic tridimentional scaffold to investigate ovarian tumour response to stem cells secretome: towards a new therapy

  • Phd
  • Full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend
  • 31 May 2018

This scholarship is funded by Swansea University and Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Start date: October 2018 or January 2019
Subject areas: cancer biology, biomimetic biomaterials, cancer engineering
Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer death in women and accounts for more UK deaths than all of the other gynaecological cancers put together. Less than half of women with ovarian cancer survive five years from diagnosis with many not responding to current treatments.  Platinum-based drugs (such as cisplatin and carboplatin) are the most widely used chemotherapy drugs in ovarian carcinoma (85% patients will receive this treatment), but their efficacy is not satisfactory. 2D cell-screening assays are widely used in drug discovery, but they are poor models to predict chemotherapeutic drug responses. Tumour progression and response to therapy depend on the molecular features of the cancer cells and on their interaction with the surrounding environment, either at the primary or at the metastatic site. We propose to develop a 3D multicellular model using collagen-scaffolds for evaluating the efficacy of novel therapeutic agents against ovarian cancer.
Exceptional research quality, ensured through a collaboration with HMRI, a world-leading institution, will allow the following specific project aims:
1) Development of the 3D experimental model using ovarian cancer cells cultured on 3D collagen scaffolds to compare cell proliferation, metabolism and expression of bimolecular markers expression between 3D and 2D-cultured cells.
2) Evaluation of the biochemical and physical modifications induced by OC to scaffolds' surface and composition, and whether these changes correlate with the aggressiveness of the cell lines.
3) Assessment of drug responsiveness in terms of proliferation rate and cell death induction in OC cells grown in the 3D Biomimetic scaffold and compared to 2D response
4) Evaluation and validation of therapeutic agents and/or exosomes in cancer samples (primary and metastatic sites) isolated from OC patients and grown as 3D systems using collagen scaffolds to select conditions for best therapeutic agent tumour penetration and response to treatment.  
Swansea University and Houston Methodist fund the PhD, and as such, the student will spend the 1.5 years at Swansea University and 2 years at the Houston Methodist Research Institute.
Supervisors: The student will be supervised by Dr Deya Gonzalez (Swansea) and Dr Zhubo Wei and Dr Francesca Taraballi (Houston Methodist), joining vibrant, multidisciplinary research environments composed of academics, clinicians, PhD students, post-docs and technicians. 
Facilities: The student will be based (1st year) at the £21M Centre for Nanohealth, Swansea University, equipped with world-class facilities to conduct part of the required research. At HMRI, the student will have access to 20 core-facilities with exceptional scientific technology, including a preclinical evaluation suite, not available at Swansea University.
Find our more information about Swansea University's Reproductive Biology and Gynaecological Oncology research group.


Applicants should have an MSc and/or a first class or 2.1 degree in molecular biology, medical genetics, genetics, biochemistry, medical biochemistry, pharmacology, tissue engineering  or a related discipline.
Due to funding restrictions, this studentship is open to UK/EU candidates only. 
Applications are sought from individuals with experience in:
Gene/Protein expression analysis (Quantitative Real Time PCR, Western blot, ELISA)Tissue culture  techniquesFlow cytometry
Applicants with previous experience working with patient samples are encouraged to apply.
We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements to be met by point of application. For details on the University‚Äôs English Language entry requirements, please visit ‚Äst


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Demonstrate your English skills with IELTS.


The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus an annual stipend of £14,777 for academic year 2018/19. Stipend for year two and three are $30,000 and year four will be six months of pro rata UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) standard rate.
There will be an additional sum of up to £500 per annum (3.5 years) to support international collaborative opportunities, immersive training experiences and cohort building activities.


Please visit our website for more information.

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