Multidisciplinary Cancer Research UK 4-year PhD Studentship

University College London - UCL Mechanical Engineering

Metastatic disease is the major clinical complication in most types of cancer and the cause of 90% of cancer-related deaths. Whilst the mechanisms regulating the initial steps of metastasis (local invasion and intravasation) are becoming clearer, we still lack understanding of how circulating cancer cells manage to extravasate (i.e. adhere to the capillaries at secondary sites and cross the tight endothelial barrier). In addition to genetic and chemical microenvironmental cues, the physical interactions of cancer cells with endothelial cells and underlying matrix, as well as their modulation by mechanical forces and stiffness, are key regulating factors in extravasation and metastatic success.

The project aims at identifying the main physical and biological determinants that underlie extravasation of tumour cells. We will employ and further develop in vitro microfluidic models to generate physiologically compatible systems. These will be used to image the extravasation processes with high spatiotemporal resolution under static conditions and under flow induced sheer stress. In addition, we combine our model with new physical measurement techniques to monitor force generation and modulation of mechanical properties of cancer cells, endothelial cells, and sub-endothelial matrix during transendothelial migration. These approaches will provide an in-depth understanding of the biophysical determinants of cancer cell extravasation and be an ideal platform to further characterise the process. By interrogating the system, we aim to generate mechanistic insights and to identify key cellular processes and modulators that will be further tested to determine their functional and biological significance.

ELIGIBILITY

  • Applicants are preferred to have a first class undergraduate and master’s degrees (or equivalent) in Engineering, Physics, Biology or a related disciplines.
  • The position is open to UK or EU citizens but exceptional international candidates might be considered.
  • Excellent organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills, along with a stated interest in interdisciplinary research, are essential.
  • Fundamental knowledge and experience in biophysics and biomechanics would be useful but not mandatory.
  • Fluency and clarity in spoken English as well as good written English in accordance with UCL English requirements.
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Type / Role:

PhD

Location(s):

London