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Multidisciplinary Cancer Research UK 4-year PhD Studentship

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We are seeking an outstanding PhD candidate to join Mechanics in Biology and Medicine laboratory ( as part of a multidisciplinary collaborative project between Dr Emad Moeendarbary at the Department of Mechanical Engineering (University College London, UCL) and Dr Fernando Calvo at the Division of Cancer Biology (Institute of Cancer Research, London).

Project description: Metastatic disease is the major clinical complication in most types of cancer and the cause of 90% of cancer-related deaths. Whilst the mechanisms regulating the initial steps of metastasis (local invasion and intravasation) are becoming clearer, we still lack understanding of how circulating cancer cells manage to extravasate (i.e. adhere to the capillaries at secondary sites and cross the tight endothelial barrier). In addition to genetic and chemical microenvironmental cues, the physical interactions of cancer cells with endothelial cells and underlying matrix, as well as their modulation by mechanical forces and stiffness are key regulating factors in extravasation and metastatic success.

The project aims at identifying the main physical and biological determinants that underlie extravasation of tumour cells. We will employ and further develop in vitro microfluidic models to generate physiologically compatible systems. These will be used to image the extravasation processes with high spatiotemporal resolution under static conditions and under flow-induced shear stress. In addition, we combine our model with new physical measurement techniques to monitor force generation and modulation of mechanical properties of cancer cells, endothelial cells and sub-endothelial matrix during transendothelial migration. These approaches will provide an in-depth understanding of the biophysical determinants of cancer cell extravasation and be an ideal platform to further characterise the process. By interrogating the system, we aim to generate mechanistic insights and to identify key cellular processes and modulators that will be further tested to determine their functional and biological significance.

Suggested Readings
 Wirtz, D., K. Konstantopoulos, and P.C. Searson. 2011. The physics of cancer: the role of physical interactions and mechanical forces in metastasis. Nat. Rev. Cancer. 11: 512–22.
 Reymond, N., B.B. d’Água, and A.J. Ridley. 2013. Crossing the endothelial barrier during metastasis. Nat. Rev. Cancer.
 A Malandrino, RD Kamm, E Moeendarbary, 2017. In vitro modelling of mechanics in cancer metastasis, ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.
 Moeendarbary E, & Harris A. Cell mechanics: principles, practices and prospects. WIREs Systems Biology and Medicine. 
 Moeendarbary, E., L. Valon, M. Fritzsche, A.R. Harris, D.A. Moulding, A.J. Thrasher, E. Stride, L. Mahadevan, and G.T. Charras. 2013. The cytoplasm of living cells behaves as a poroelastic material. Nature Materials.

Environment, Research and Training

You will be based at UCL which is one of the world’s top multidisciplinary universities, with an international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching. As part of this project, you will be working with a large interdisciplinary network of researchers. The candidate will benefit from state-of-the-art biomedical engineering research training and combined supervision by world-leading scientists in the fields of cell biomechanics and cancer biology. You will have the opportunity to spend few months in the lab of our close collaborators at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and/or the University of Maryland.

Value of award

You will be offered generous CRUK stipend for 4 years (£21,000/ year tax free) and funds for attending national/international conferences to present your work.


• Applicants are preferred to have a first-class undergraduate and master’s degrees (or equivalent) in Engineering, Physics, Biology or a related discipline. 
• Excellent organizational, interpersonal and communication skills, along with a stated interest in interdisciplinary research, are essential.
• Fundamental knowledge and experience in biophysics and biomechanics would be advantageous but not mandatory.
• Fluency and clarity in spoken English as well as good written English in accordance with UCL English requirements (TOEFL>92 or IELTS>6.5).

Application Process

Eligible applicants should first contact Dr. Emad Moeendarbary ( enclosing a cover letter (including the names and contact details of two referees), one-page research statement and two pages CV.

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