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Immunotherapy: Using biological agents to enhance T cell responses to tumours


Key facts

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

Immunotherapies, particularly Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICI), are changing the cancer treatment landscape. ICI efficacy depends on the presence of tumour-reactive cytotoxic T cells (CTL) which can recognize and kill cancer cells. However, even when CTL are present in patients, ICI may fail because the CTL are unable to access the tumour or cannot recognize the cancer cells owing to their low expression of tumour-associated antigens (TAA). Oncolytic viruses (OV) preferentially infect and replicate within tumours, this specificity arises as a result of altered signalling pathways within cancer cells. Similarly, many bacteria preferentially colonize tumours owing to the oxygen and nutrient conditions found therein. We can use this property of OV and bacteria to target therapeutic genes to cancer. For example T-VEC, a herpes simplex virus modified to express granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), has been approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma in patients.

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

<p>This project will use biological agents to address immune cell access and recognition of cancer cells. &nbsp;OV and bacteria will be modified to express proteins designed to enhance immune cell infiltration and anti-tumour immune responses.&nbsp;</p> <p>The successful student will receive training in tissue culture, molecular biology, virus and bacteria propagation, flow cytometry, immunoblotting and ELISA.&nbsp; There will also be the opportunity to gain experience of&nbsp;in vivo&nbsp;work.&nbsp;</p> <p>This project is part of the&nbsp;<a href="">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. To apply for this project applicants should complete an <a href="">online application form</a> and submit this&nbsp;alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates. Please make it clear in the research information section that you are applying for the International PhD Academy: Medical Research, as well as the title of the project you wish to be considered for.</p> <p>We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these <a href="">references</a> on your behalf, directly to <a href=""></a></p> <p>If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University&#39;s minimum English language requirements (below).</p>

<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. A Masters degree in a relevant subject may also be required in some areas of the Faculty. 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. For this programme the minimum requirements 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</p> <p>Enquiries regarding the application process should be directed to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Graduate School&nbsp;Office&nbsp;e: <a href=""></a>,&nbsp;t: +44 (0)113 343 8221.</p>

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