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PhD Studentship - Imaging Tumour Macrophage Polarisation for Non-invasive Evaluation of Anticancer Therapy

The University of Edinburgh

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Edinburgh
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: see advert
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 8th January 2019
Closes: 1st March 2019

Principal Supervisor: Dr. Michael Chen, Institute for Bioengineering

Assistant Supervisor: Dr. Binzhi Qian, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

Tumours are populated with not only malignant cells but also many other resident cells such as macrophages.  Normally, macrophages act as the first defense line of the immune system and are specialised to kill and remove disease cells or foreign substances that may be harmful to human body. However, the macrophages in the tumour is a “double edged sword” and can either inhibit or promote tumour growth depending on their polarisation to different phenotypes including pro-inflammatory macrophages (M1; suppress tumour growth) or anti-inflammatory macrophages (M2; promote tumour development). It has been demonstrated that cancer therapy can affect the population of tumour macrophages. A high M1/M2 ratio is linked with extended survival of cancer patients. Therefore, the population of macrophages and the M1/M2 ratio is very important in assessing therapeutic outcome and status of tumour. Our goal is to develop a non-invasive fluorescence nanoprobe (materials science and chemical engineering) to specifically target M1/M2 tumour macrophages (cancer biology). Through this, the population of tumour macrophages and the M1/M2 ratio can be determined via optical imaging (physical science). The information will be used to assess the outcome of anticancer therapy and the status of tumour to guide doctors in treatment.

Our track record in this work:

  1. X Chen, WJ Zhang, Diamond nanostructures for drug delivery, bioimaging, and biosensing, Chemical Society Reviews, 46, 734-760, 2017.
  2. JF Zhang, YN Li, FF An, XH Zhang, X Chen, CS Lee, Preparation and size control of sub-100 nm pure nanodrugs, Nano Letters, 15(1), 313-318, 2015.
  3. L Yan, JF Zhang, CS Lee, X Chen, Micro- and nanotechnologies for intracellular delivery, Small, 10(22), 4487-4504, 2014.
  4. BZ Qian, J Li, H Zhang, T Kitamura, LR Campion, EA Kaiser, J Zhang, LA Snyder and JW Pollard, CCL2 recruits inflammatory monocytes to facilitate breast tumour metastasis, Nature 2011 475: 222-25.
  5. BZ Qian, JW Pollard, Macrophage Diversity Enhances Tumour Progression and Metastasis, Cell 2010 141, 39-51.

To undertake this research, we are seeking a highly motivated candidate with established hands-on experience in nanomaterials synthesis and cell biology. Applications are particularly welcome from candidates with organic chemistry research experience.

Further Information:


The standard stipend in Engineering is £16.4k per year in 2018/19, with annual increments. Any stipend will be at this rate, unless stated below.

EPSRC funded (see EPSRC student eligibility). Tuition fees + stipend available for Home students or EU students who have been resident in the UK for 3 years.  International students or EU students who have not been resident in the UK for 3 years are not eligible for the funding, however applications are welcome from those who are applying for scholarships from the University of Edinburgh or elsewhere, or who have their own funding.


All adverts will list our standard entry requirements:

Give any specific entry requirements or restrictions below (e.g. “an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering…”)

Entry requirement: minimum entry qualification – an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or international equivalent) in chemical engineering, chemistry, materials science, biomedical engineering, or cell biology. English language requirements need to be satisfied by EU/Overseas applicants.

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