PhD Studentship: Targeting the β-catenin Protein Interaction Network in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia

University of Sussex - Cancer Biology

Targeting the b-catenin protein interaction network in acute myeloid leukaemia.

A PhD studentship (42 months) is available from September 2018 under the supervision of Dr. Rhys Morgan, Biochemistry & Biomedicine, School of Life Sciences.

Deadline: 31/5/18

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is a disease of the bone marrow. Despite improvements in patient survival over the past 50 years many patients still die of their disease through relapse, so more efficacious therapies are required for this blood cancer.

Wnt/b-catenin signalling is an evolutionary conserved signalling pathway critical for normal development and heavily implicated in human cancer. The central mediator, b-catenin, is frequently overexpressed in AML where its expression is linked with inferior patient survival. Furthermore, experimental models of AML development have demonstrated b-catenin to play a pivotal role in leukaemogenesis, rendering the protein an ideal therapeutic target.

The stability, subcellular localisation and transcriptional activity of b-catenin is dictated heavily by protein interactions, however most of its molecular characterisation has been performed in epithelial cells. b-Catenin’s haematopoietic interactome varies from its epithelial interactome, given its less prominent cell adhesion role in blood cells, and the scarcity of activating Wnt mutations (APC, Axin and b-catenin) which are frequent in solid tumours, but rare in leukaemia.

We have recently performed the first ever b-catenin interactome study in leukaemia cells and these analyses have revealed a number of novel protein partners of considerable clinical interest (manuscript in preparation). The aim of this project is to further investigate the biological significance of these protein interactions in the context of AML pathology (proliferation, survival and chemosensitivity of leukaemia cells), normal haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPC) development and overall Wnt signalling output. 

The successful candidate will adopt a range of experimental techniques including gene transduction, tissue culture, microscopy, flow cytometry and RNAseq to interrogate the project aims. In addition to laboratory derived leukaemia cell lines, the student will also perform experiments using primary HSPCs and primary AML patient cells in close collaboration with Dr. Timothy Chevassut (Brighton & Sussex Medical School).

Dr. Rhys Morgan is currently a Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund (KKLF) Junior Fellow and will be establishing his new group at the University of Sussex. Therefore, the successful candidate will be enthusiastic, well organised and demonstrate initiative when working independently. The candidate must have good communication skills in order to work closely with existing collaborators at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University, whilst also presenting their data at departmental seminars and national/international meetings.

Please submit a formal application using our online application system at, including a CV, degree transcripts and certificates, statement of interest and names of two academic referees.

On the application system use Programme of Study – PhD Biochemistry.

Make sure you include the project title and Supervisor’s name with your statement of interest on the application form.

This School funded position, which covers fees and a stipend at standard RCUK rates, is open to Home / EU applicants. Eligible applicants will have recently received an MSc and/or a First or high 2:1 BSc in a relevant subject. Candidates for whom English is not their first language will require an IELTS score of 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in any section.

Contact Anna Izykowska for application enquiries (

Contact Rhys Morgan ( for enquiries about the project

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South East England