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Oncolytic virus immunotherapy to sensitise liver cancers to immune checkpoint blockade


Key facts

Type of research degree
Application deadline
Ongoing deadline
Country eligibility
International (open to all nationalities, including the UK)
Additional supervisors
Adel Samson, Stephen Griffin
School of Medicine
Research groups/institutes
Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is acknowledged as a cancer of unmet need, with overall survival frequently less than 7 months in patients with advanced disease. Immune checkpoint inhibitors targeting T-cell signalling pathways are producing unprecedented results in solid malignancies, including recent advances in liver cancer. However, the majority of patients derive no benefit from these drugs. We and others have reported that oncolytic viruses, therapeutic viruses that preferentially replicate in malignant cells, can be employed to prime the tumour microenvironment, rendering previously resistant tumours susceptible to immune checkpoint blockade (1,2). We have also shown that oncolytic viruses can suppress both Hepatitis B and C virus infections (3).

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

<p>The trainee will investigate the use of oncolytic virus therapy to increase T-cell priming against HCC tumour specific antigens, and prime tumours for subsequent immune checkpoint blockade, thus enhancing therapy. Other areas of research include the effects of oncolytic viruses and checkpoint blockade on Natural Killer cell activity and HCV/HBV infections.</p> <p>HCC research at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology (LICAP) is delivered through stakeholders including patient groups, charities, clinicians across a range of specialities and the scientific community to develop and deliver high quality translational research using new agents and technologies to improve outcomes for patients. The group has active collaborations in the UK (ICR, London, Birmingham) and elsewhere (notably the Mayo Clinic, USA and the University of Madrid, Spain). HCC research at LICAP is supported by colleagues in&nbsp; virology, medical oncology, surgical oncology and hepatology, with collaborative translational clinical trials spanning all the aforememntioned specialities.</p> <p>The trainee will be supervised by a translational oncologist, Dr Adel Samson and a professional scientist-virologist, Dr Stephen Griffin. This mixed clinical and scientific team will provide the trainee with an excellent background in basic science research, as well as clinically relevant models of cancer immunotherapy, leading to translational clinical trials in patients with cancer.</p> <h3>References:</h3> <ol> <li>Samson A, Scott KJ, Taggart D, West EJ, Wilson E, Nuovo GJ, et al. Intravenous delivery of oncolytic reovirus to brain tumor patients immunologically primes for subsequent checkpoint blockade. Sci Transl Med [Internet]. 2018 Jan 3 [cited 2018 Jan 4];10(422):eaam7577. Available from: <a href=""></a></li> <li>Bourgeois-Daigneault M-C, Roy DG, Aitken AS, El Sayes N, Martin NT, Varette O, et al. Neoadjuvant oncolytic virotherapy before surgery sensitizes triple-negative breast cancer to immune checkpoint therapy. Sci Transl Med [Internet]. 2018 Jan 3 [cited 2018 Jan 17];10(422):eaao1641. Available from: <a href=""></a></li> <li>Samson A, Bentham MJ, Scott K, Nuovo G, Bloy A, Appleton E, et al. Oncolytic reovirus as a combined antiviral and anti-tumour agent for the treatment of liver cancer. Gut [Internet]. 2016 Nov 15 [cited 2017 Apr 1];gutjnl-2016-312009. Available from:</li> </ol>

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

<p>Applications can be made at any time. To apply for this project applicants should complete a<a href=""> Faculty Application Form</a> and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) and degree certificates to the Faculty Graduate School <a href=""></a></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 you have already applied for other projects using the Faculty Application Form this academic session you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email&nbsp;<a href=""></a> to inform us you would like to be considered for this project.</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> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></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. The Faculty of Medicine and Health minimum requirements in IELTS and TOEFL tests for PhD, MSc, MPhil, MD are: &acirc;&euro;&cent; British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0 &acirc;&euro;&cent; TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

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

<p>For further information please contact the Graduate School Office<br /> e: <a href=""></a>, t: +44 (0)113 343 8221.</p>