Skip to main content

LIMR Cancer: Understanding the immunosuppressive role of fibroblast and macrophages in Breast cancer


Key facts

Type of research degree
4 year PhD
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (outside UK)
Dr Fiona Errington-Mais
Additional supervisors
Dr Victoria Jennings
School of Medicine
Research groups/institutes
Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Oncolytic viruses (OVs) preferentially infect and kill cancer cells, and their clinical efficacy has been demonstrated against a number of different cancers.

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<p>The most clinically advanced OV is a genetically engineered herpes simplex virus (T-VEC) which expresses GMCSF to aid the development of anti-tumour immune responses; T-VEC is approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. OVs use multiple mechanisms to induce their anti-cancer effects including: (i) preferential viral replication in cancer cells and subsequent cell death - a process known as oncolysis; and (ii) stimulation of both innate and adaptive anti-tumour immune responses capable of eradicating malignant cells.&nbsp;However, the tumour microenvironment comprises a complex network of cell-cell interactions, and multiple mechanisms exist which support tumour growth and inhibit anti-cancer immune responses. These include the release of cancer promoting growth factors and cytokines from tumour stroma and inhibition of anti-cancer cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and natural killer (NK) cell by cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) and tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs).&nbsp;In recent years, a greater understanding of the tumour microenvironment has enabled researchers to design complementary combination therapies which enhance OV efficacy. However, greater understanding of the immunosuppressive mechanisms utilised by CAF and TAMs in breast cancer is required to enhance the efficacy of OV-based immunotherapies in breast cancer.</p> <p>This PhD project will characterise immunosuppressive mechanisms utilised by CAF and TAM in breast cancer and develop strategies to overcome these to enhance the efficacy of OV-based immunotherapies. Novel therapeutic strategies could include the inhibition of immunosuppressive networks using siRNA or miRNA technologies and/or OV-drug combinations. This work will be carried out using established in vitro human model systems and has the potential to progress to in vivo studies. Ultimately, this project will generate novel strategies to increase the efficacy of OV anti-cancer therapy in breast cancer. Moreover, this project also has the potential to inform the application of OV-based immunotherapy in alternative cancer types.</p> <h5>Techniques associated with this project:</h5> <p>During this PhD project students will learn a range of cellular and molecular biology techniques including 2D and 3D cell culture models; viral propagation and infection; siRNA transfection; cell viability assays; ELISA; RT-PCR and flow cytometry. Importantly, there will also be an opportunity to gain in vivo experience, if desired by the appointed PhD student.&nbsp;These skills provide a solid basis to pursue a career in most biology fields but the appointed student will develop background knowledge and specific expertise that is particularly relevant to a career in cancer research, cancer biology and/or cancer immunology.</p> <p>This project is part of the <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">International PhD Academy: Medical Research</a></p> <p><strong>In line with the bespoke nature of our International PhD Academy a modified PhD project can be proposed dependent on students interests and background.</strong></p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p>Please note these are not standalone projects and applicants must apply to the PhD academy directly.</p> <p>Applications can be made at any time. You should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and attach the following documentation to support your application.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li>a full academic CV</li> <li>degree certificate and transcripts of marks (or marks so far if still studying)</li> <li>Evidence that you meet the programme&rsquo;s minimum English language requirements (if applicable, see requirement below)</li> <li>Evidence of funding to support your studies</li> </ul> <p>To help us identify that you are applying for this project please ensure you provide the following information on your application form;</p> <ul> <li>Select PhD in Medicine, Health &amp; Human Disease as your planned programme of study</li> <li>Give the full project title and name the supervisors listed in this advert</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

A degree in biological sciences, dentistry, medicine, midwifery, nursing, psychology or a good honours degree in a subject relevant to the research topic. For entry requirements for all other research degrees we offer, please contact us.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

Applicants whose first language is not English must provide evidence that their English language is sufficient to meet the specific demands of their study. The minimum requirements for this programme in IELTS and TOEFL tests are: &bull; British Council IELTS - score of 7.0 overall, with no element less than 6.5 &bull; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 100 with the listening and reading element no less than 22, writing element no less than 23 and the speaking element no less than 24.

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>Informal enquires about regarding the bespoke taught first year of the PhD programme and research projects can be made by contacting <a href=""></a>.</p> <p>Enquiries regarding the application process should be directed to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School e: <a href=""></a></p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>