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PhD in Therapeutic Ultrasound


Qualification Type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: UK Students
Funding amount: This Studentship is funded for 3 years at £17,609 per annum (this will be adjusted for inflation annually)
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 17th September 2021
Closes: 31st October 2021

Project Description

Pancreatic cancer is one the most common causes of cancer death in the world. One characteristic of pancreatic cancer in humans is the presence of a dense fibrous stroma which may comprise up to 80% of the tumour mass. Even though chemotherapeutic agents such as gemcitabine have been shown to be effective in cells in-vitro, their effectiveness in treating patients has been disappointing due to limited blood perfusion and insufficient drug delivery to the tumour in-vivo. Drug transport to solid tumours is severely hindered by the barrier presented by the tumour vascular endothelium, which can prevent transport across vasculature walls into surrounding tissue. Furthermore, transport through interstitial space within a tumour occurs either via diffusion or by convection via the tumour vasculature. However, the highly heterogeneous vasculature in most solid tumours can result in high concentrations of drug in one part of a tumour but not in another, causing difficulties in treating cancer cells located distal to blood vessels.

Studentship Description

Our proposed approach is to apply focused ultrasound to enhance the transport of therapeutic agents across vessel walls and their delivery to areas of the tumour with low vascular density. We aim to understand underlying mechanisms of the effects (micro-streaming, cavitation) of focused ultrasound in tissues (healthy and neoplasms) and use this understanding to design better therapies. We also aim to design and construct hybrid in vitro models of the tumour based on multicellular spheroids embedded in a stromal structure with interstitial fluid flow.

The aim of this research project will be to develop an ultrasound-mediated drug delivery method that can be used to (a) release chemotherapy drug encapsulated in thermo-sensitive liposomes at the tumour site, (b) increase drug accumulation in the tumour through hyperthermia and (c) enhance the penetration of the drug through the tumour by using radiation force and microstreaming.

We will develop treatment plans to optimise drug delivery based on a thorough understanding of the underlying physics by bringing together expertise in biomedical ultrasound, mathematical modelling, advanced 3D in vitro models for solid tumours, vascular flows, drug delivery systems and pancreatic surgery.

The project is a collaboration between the Ultrasonics Group at UCL Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Eirini Velliou at the Centre for 3D Models of Health and Disease of UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science.

Person Specification

Applicants must have a first degree in an appropriate engineering discipline (e.g. Mechanical or Medical Physics), or Applied Physics. Proficiency in applied mathematics, Matlab or other programming experience are a distinct advantage. Only students with a good First degree, or who are expecting to receive one, and/or an MSc degree with distinction will be considered.


Applications will be accepted from home (UK) citizens only.


Application Process

Prospective candidates are strongly encouraged to email Prof Nader Saffari ( for an informal discussion before applying. Please attach your CV and full transcript of exam results when making an enquiry.

See for information. A CV, full transcript of results (listing all subjects taken and their corresponding grades/marks) and a cover letter stating how the project meets your research interests must be included.

Funding Notes

This Studentship is funded for 3 years at £17,609 per annum.

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