PhD Studentship: Exploiting the effects of low mural cell β3-integrin in the control of cancer progression, therapy resistance and metastasis

Application deadline: 19 February 2022

Start date: September 2022

The project will commence in September 2022 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. This PhD studentship is funded by Cancer Research UK.

Primary Supervisor: Prof Kairbaan Hodivala-Dilke

Centre for Tumour Microenvironment

This exciting project will tackle the problem of improving treatment for cancer patients who need it most and understanding the basic biology behind this.

Most solid cancer related deaths are a result of resistance to therapy and metastasis. There is an urgent need to identifying patients who have a high risk of progression to determining alternative treatment strategies. Cells that constitute tumour blood vessels (BVs), including perivascular, supporting mural cells can control these processes.

We have discovered that loss of mural-cell β3-integrin stimulates intracellular signalling pathways resulting in paracrine signals that enhance primary tumour growth without affecting vascularisation.  In human cancers, from different stages of progression, low mural β3-integrin expression is associated not only with an increase in cancer size (Wong and Muñoz-Félix et al., Cell 2020) but also with higher cancer stage, relapse rates and enhanced metastasis. These fundamental findings indicate a new mechanism of cancer growth regulation by mural cell β3-integrin with relevance to cancer progression and metastasis.

The successful applicant will learn a range of molecular, cellular and in vivo techniques in laboratory models and in human cancer in order to exploit the molecular mechanisms regulated by mural β3-integrin that specifically promote treatment resistance and metastasis to provide the best potential targets for therapeutic intervention. This exciting project is embedded in the heart of the Hodivala-Dilke Lab at the Barts Cancer Centre, part of the CRUK-City of London partnership with Kings College London, University College London and the Francis Crick Institute. The PhD will involve a multidisciplinary approach using state of the art techniques via cross institute collaborations.

Academic Entry Requirements

All applicants should have or be expecting:

  • A first or upper second class honours degree in a relevant biological subject from a UK university or the international equivalent from a recognised institution. For international equivalencies please see Queen Mary International Office. Or;
  • A medical degree from a recognised institution.

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 rate. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, but will be required to fund the difference in tuition fees.

The studentship includes the following funding for 3 years:

  • A tax-free annual stipend of £21,000
  • Tuition fees at the Home rate*
  • Project consumables

*If you are considered an overseas student for fee purposes, you are welcome to apply for this studentship, however you will be required to cover the difference in tuition fees.

To apply you will need to complete an online application form. For this studentship please select the non-clinical PhD option.

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

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