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4-year Ph.D. Studentships to study the Lung and Liver Metastatic Niches

The Beatson Institute for Cancer Research - McNab Centre

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Glasgow
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £19,000
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 13th September 2021
Closes: 12th December 2021

CRUK PhD studentship level stipend of £19,000 p/a

McNab Centre for Cancer Innovation - Supported by a generous bequest from Annie McNab

One of the main challenges that we face in treating cancer is the likelihood that, at the time of diagnosis, malignant cells have already left the primary tumour and spread to other organs. Thus, even following complete removal of the primary tumour, disseminated cells can reside within ‘metastatic niches’ only to reappear later as metastasis.

A substantial donation from Ms Annie McNab to the CRUK Beatson Institute has enabled us to establish a new Centre for Cancer Innovation in Glasgow to address this significant challenge to effective cancer treatment. The McNab Centre for Cancer Innovation, which is led by Profs. Ross Cagan, Jim Norman and Dr Chiara Braconi, is a laboratory that focuses on the development and application of new technologies to identify and target the vulnerabilities of cancers once they have spread from the primary site to a metastatic one. We are developing bioengineered human tissues and other technologies—including mouse and Drosophila models—to recapitulate the microenvironments that are encountered in the liver, bone, and lungs by metastatic cancers. We will combine these approaches with state-of-the-art screening and chemical evolution to develop new leads for drugs to treat metastasis to these organs.

We welcome applications from bright and ambitious scientists for the following studentships that have recently become available within the McNab Centre, which will be based in the Institute of Cancer Sciences and CRUK Beatson Institute, Glasgow.

4-year Ph.D. Studentships to study the Lung and Liver Metastatic Niches

When cancer cells metastasise, they move to new locations with different metabolism and physical characteristics. Thus, when we look for new therapies for cancers it is key to use cells that are present in microenvironments that recapitulate those of metastatic target organs. We have two exciting opportunities for PhD students to develop bioengineered systems to recapitulate the microenvironments of two key metastatic target organs: the lung and liver. Patient-derived cancers of known genotype will then be cultured in these bioengineered microenvironments to enable screening for compounds that specifically target metastasis.

PhD Studentship 1: The Lung Metastatic Niche. Bioengineered lung models will be generated to recapitulate key aspects of organ biology including respiratory cyclic stretch; we will develop a lung platform suitable for medium to high throughput testing. Bioengineered lung models will be cultured with patient-derived colorectal or pancreatic cancer cells to recapitulate the lung metastatic niche and identify the therapeutic vulnerabilities of colorectal and pancreatic tumours that have spread to the lung.

This studentship will be supervised by Dr Leo Carlin ( to whom informal enquiries should be directed

PhD Studentship 2: The Liver Metastatic Niche. Spheres composed of hepatocytes, sinusoidal endothelial and/or stellate cells will be used to develop and refine a model of the liver metastatic niche in parallel with analysis from in vivo genetic mouse models and human samples. The unique contribution of the cancer driver mutation(s), cancer types (e.g., pancreatic vs colorectal) will be considered in the context of how new metastases are established and which vulnerabilities might be actionable for new therapies.

This studentship will be supervised by Prof. Laura Machesky ( and Dr Chiara Braconi ( to whom informal enquiries should be directed

Applications must be made via our website on

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