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Nominating Supervisor: Prof. Katherine Vallis

Second Supervisor: Prof. Boris Vojnovic

The Project

Oesophageal cancer is an area of unmet clinical need; late diagnosis is one of the reasons that cure rates remain stubbornly low.

The overall aim of this project is to design and characterise near infrared (NIR) fluorophore-tagged tracers for optical imaging of early oesophageal neoplasia in vivo. We have identified a novel marker of early oesophageal cancer and prototypic antibody- and peptide-based tracers that target it have been developed. Therefore, one aspect of the project will be to refine and validate these new tracers in in vitro and in vivo assays. In addition, there is scope within the project to select new molecular markers for investigation and tracer design, synthesis and testing.

In vivo testing which will be performed in models of oesophageal cancer including genetically engineered murine models (GEMM) that closely simulate human oesophageal pre- and early oesophageal cancer. This aspect of the research will be conducted in collaboration with Prof. Michael Quante, Technische Universität München, Germany. Work to validate the tracers in human cancer tissue will be carried out in collaboration with Dr. Elizabeth Bird-Lieberman, Consultant in Translational Gastroenterology, Oxford.

 Depending on the specific interests of the student, there is an opportunity to contribute to research in technical advances in pertinent microscopy techniques and miniaturised endoscopy instrument design.

In summary the project will suit a student interested in cross-disciplinary research, involving both cancer biology and imaging science, and who is keen to develop skills in translational cancer research.

The Training

This is a cross-disciplinary project that spans cancer biology, biomarker selection and validation and imaging tracer design and testing. It will involve training in aspects of the molecular pathology of oesophageal cancer, antibody and peptide engineering, advanced microscopy including confocal live cell imaging and in vivo bioluminescence imaging. The project will utilize in vitro and in vivo models of oesophageal cancer.


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