PhDs in Cancer Imaging (4 PhD Scholarships)

University of Hull - The PET Healthcare

To celebrate the University's research successes, the University of Hull is offering a full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarship or International Fees Bursary for candidates applying for each of the following projects.

Studentships will start on 17th September 2018

Interested applicants should contact Dr Chris Cawthorne ( for additional details.          

Summary of Cluster

The PET Healthcare technologies cluster aims to expand the scope of PET research at both the University and the Hull & East Yorkshire NHS Trust with the aim of improving patient outcomes using a ‘dose-on-demand’ approach for the provision of PET service to patients. The University is unique in that it houses a benchtop cyclotron dedicated to preclinical research in a bespoke PET facility, and links to a clinical dose-on-demand cyclotron development at Castle Hill Hospital – one of the first such facilities to be built worldwide. Studentships in the cluster build on local academic and clinical expertise and focus on specific areas of PET-themed research, including i)  lowering the cost of ‘dose-on-demand’ 18F-radio-pharmacy production via the application of microfluidic devices, ii) the improvement of 68Ga-PET methods to assess radiation dose from molecularly targeted radiotherapy using 177Lu, iii) the validation of translational methods to allow inhaled drug deposition to be quantified using PET, and iv) the application of machine learning tools to improve scatter correction and thus the quality of reconstructed PET images.

PhD project 1: Development of Clinical Radiochemistry Tools for Dose-On-Demand PET

A key challenge in delivery of new molecular imaging agents (at an appropriate cost point with minimal impact on staff training and infrastructure) is the radiochemical synthesis method. In general, they are designed for large volumes and have major infrastructure requirements. The aim of this project is to further develop radiochemical synthesis methods and test automated protoypes in a clinical radiopharmacy at Castle Hill Hospital, in collaboration with the NHS radiopharmacy team, . The initial focus will be on fluorine-18 radiochemistry but there will be the potential to extend this to carbon-11 synthetic protocols using the GE GENtrace cyclotron on the Castle Hill Hospital site.

PhD project 2: Validation of PET-enabled Molecular Radiotherapy Dosimetry. Whilst molecular imaging can provide diagnostic/prognostic information for cancer patients, it can also guide the application of therapeutic isotopes attached to the same probe (so-called ‘Theranostics’), i.e. PET imaging allows the stratification of patients for peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). Although such therapy is by definition tumour-targeted, differences in the way the individual patients clear the drug from the body require dose optimisation to determine the ideal therapeutic dose. This project seeks to explore whether pharmacokinetic data derived from initial 68Ga scans can be used to predict both tumour and normal organ uptake and dosimetry, starting in relevant preclinical models and moving the nuclear medicine clinic at Castle Hill Hospital as patient therapy is developed, building on initial experience with radium-223 for prostate cancer metastasis.

PhD project 3: Validation of Pulmonary Drug Delivery Assessment using PET

The delivery of drugs for respiratory illness via aerosol is the major route for current therapies, with a wide range of available formulations and delivery protocols. Although considerable research effort is expended to improve inhaled drug delivery, current methods of assessment lack validation due to the difficulty of accurately measuring lung deposition in man. PET labelling of inhaled formulations represents a novel and highly sensitive way to evaluate this. This project will develop methods of formulating radiolabelled drugs for delivery with imaging initially in mouse models and subsequently in patients. Direct radiolabelling and uptake of characterised radiopharmaceuticals (using fluorine-18) followed by the synthesis of radiolabelled formulation components and prosthetic groups will be undertaken. Optimization of PET CT imaging will allow accurate pharmacological targeting in disease.

PhD project 4: Machine Learning for Scatter Correction in PET (supervisors: Walker, Hawick)

In PET, scattered events are classified as those where at least one of the two photons in coincidence has undergone at least one Compton interaction, and image quantification in PET imaging cannot be achieved without appropriate correction. Scattering cannot be computed directly and is currently based on analytical or Monte Carlo simulation techniques. This project seeks to validate a technique for scatter correction based on machine learning, the main benefit being a huge reduction in processing time. Images reconstructed via machine learning and traditional methods will be generated and compared in a systematic and reproducible fashion. This can be achieved initially by replacing one or more elements of a current image reconstruction scheme with deep learning counterparts. In addition, it would be possible to perform deep learning based image post-processing. Applicants would be expected to have strong programming skills and it would be desired that they have knowledge of machine learning, high performance computing, image analysis and processing.

Applicants should have at least a 2.1 undergraduate degree in Chemistry or Biomedical engineering for Project 1, Pharmacological Sciences for Project 2, Pharmacological Sciences or Chemistry for Project 3, and Biomedical engineering/Computer Science for Project 4 together with relevant research experience. It is anticipated that the successful applicant will have a 1st class undergraduate degree or Masters level qualification.

To apply for these Scholarships please click on the Apply button below.              

Full-time UK/EU PhD Scholarships will include fees at the ‘home/EU' student rate and maintenance (£14,553 in 2017/18) for three years, depending on satisfactory progress.

Full-time International Fee PhD Studentships will include full fees at the International student rate for three years, dependent on satisfactory progress.

PhD students at the University of Hull follow modules for research and transferable skills development and gain a Masters level Certificate, or Diploma, in Research Training, in addition to their research degree.

Successful applicants will be informed of the award as soon as possible and by 2nd April 2018 at the latest.

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