Discovery of specific adenoviruses that eliminate treatment-resistant metastatic prostate cancers

Application deadline: 21 Aug 2020

Start date: Oct/Nov 2020 (tbc)

A degree in virology, pharmacology or biotechnology is required. Applicants should have or is expecting at least an upper second class honours degree. Independent thinking, problem solving, enthusiasm, hard-work, and ability to learn new techniques and approaches are essential.

The project will commence in October/November 2020 (tbc) and has funding for 3 years. The student will be based primarily at the Barts Cancer Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry (SMD), Charterhouse Square in the City of London.

Primary Supervisor: Gunnel Hallden

Centre for Cancer Biomarkers & Biotherapeutics

Treatment efficacy of late-stage prostate cancer (PCa) is an unmet medical need. Major reasons for the poor treatment outcomes are the development of resistance to all current therapeutics including immune-checkpoint inhibitors. A promising novel approach is oncolytic adenoviruses that kills by lysis thereby recruiting and activating the host anti-tumour immune responses and reversing resistance to current chemotherapeutics. To enable systemic delivery for elimination of metastatic PCa, further modifications of the viruses are necessary to resist detrimental blood factor neutralization. Our preliminary work, indicate that systemic half-life was prolonged when the viruses were encapsulated by cationic shielding molecules. In this project, we will genetically modify the viruses to express ligands that specifically target antigens on metastatic lesions and enable systemic delivery. We will also exploit the virus-mediated activation of anti-tumour immunity and express promising immune factors from the viral genome. Combination treatments with virus and epigenetic modifiers has proved to enhance viral spread at distant tumour lesions and will be further explored. We anticipate that this project will generate robust data to support translation in future clinical evaluation targeting men with late-stage PCa.

All studies will be undertaken in cultured prostate cancer cell lines followed by more complex 3-dimensional co-cultures with cancer cells and associated stromal cells and finally, the optimal viral mutants and treatment combinations will be tested in models in vivo. We will identify novel PCa-specific cell surface proteins expressed on PCa-metastasis by exploiting available databases. Several viral mutants will be engineered using a novel rapid technique using our collaborator’s expertise.

Academic Entry Requirements

This studentship is open to graduates with

  • a 2:1 or 1st degree in virology, pharmacology or biotechnology

English Language Requirements

Applicants for whom English is not a first language will also require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (with 6.0 in the written component) or equivalent, unless your undergraduate degree was studied in, and awarded by, an English speaking country. For more information on acceptable English language qualifications please see here.

Fee Status

The funding for this studentship only covers tuition fees at the home/EU rate.

The studentship includes the following funding for 3 years:

  • A tax-free annual stipend of £19,000
  • Tuition fees at the Home/EU rate*
  • Project consumables

*Due to funding restriction, only UK/EU nationals will be eligible to apply for this post.

To apply you will need to complete an online application form.

The following supporting documents will be required as part of your application:

  • Your CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Details of 2 referees
  • Copy of your transcript(s), including a breakdown of marks
  • Copy of your passport
  • If applicable, proof of English proficiency

If you have a question about the project, or would like to arrange an informal discussion, please contact the supervisor directly (subject ‘PhD applicant’). For general enquiries about the PhD studentship or application process please contact bci-cancercourses@qmul.ac.uk 

Successfully shortlisted candidates will be invited to an interview at Barts Cancer Institute.