PhD Studentship: Targeting lipid desaturation in aggressive cancers

Application deadline: 19/11/2019

Start date: Jan 2020

A graduate with an interest in cancer cell biology/cancer metabolism, with or is expecting at least an upper second class honours degree in a relevant biological/biochemical subject, is required for this project involving investigating the role of lipid desaturation in aggressive cancers. An MSc/MRes, or laboratory experience, in a relevant area may well prove advantageous. The project will commence ideally in January 2020 and has funding for 3 years from Barts Health. 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: Dr Barrie Peck
Centre for Tumour Biology
Project description

Triple Negative Breast cancer (TNBC) is a tumour type of significant clinical unmet need due to the lack of actionable biomarkers and efficacious targeted therapies.  Aberrant metabolism has been known to be central to oncogenic transformation since the inception of cancer research. Indeed, some of the first treatments empirically identified to treat cancer that are widely used today target metabolic pathways. Thus, although cancers undergo metabolic transformation to promote their growth, these changes render the tumours more sensitive than non-cancerous tissues to perturbations within their metabolic network. We identified the stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD) to be important in hormone-independent cancers, such as TNBCs (Peck & Schug et al 2016 Cancer & Metabolism). Utilizing 3-dimensional (3D) biologically relevant models of cancer this project will interrogate the metabolic alterations that take place in triple negative breast cancers, with a focus on lipid desaturation as a tractable node in cancer, and investigate the impact extrinsic lipids have on targeting SCD.

Using 3D models the project will involve performing various complementary metabolomic and other functional genomic techniques. The eventual goal is to determine the extrinsic factors, such as dietary lipids, that impact disease trajectory and treatment response.

Who should apply?

Academic Entry Requirements

These studentships are open to graduates with

  • a 2:1 or 1st degree in a related subject, with experience of cell/molecular biology

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. 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/EU 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.

How to apply

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
Who to contact if you require further information

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 

What are the next steps in the application process?

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