Cancer Biology MPhil/PhD/MD
Major code: CGMR/CGPR/CGMD
The Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine
The Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine forms the mainstay of the new NWCR Centre University of Liverpool.
Our principal research themes include basic cancer cell and molecular biology, translational research and tumour specific research in many areas including pancreatic, head and neck cancer, urological, breast, gastro-oesophageal, colorectal, gynaecological and lung cancers as well as paediatric cancers and haemato-oncology. The Department forms an important component of the North West Cancer Research Centre - University of Liverpool and is closely aligned with the Cancer Research UK Liverpool Cancer Trials Unit, the Cancer Research UK/NIHR Liverpool Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (http://www.lctu.org.uk/lecmc/) and the NIHR Pancreas Biomedical Research Unit. In addition, the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine will soon be home to the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute.
The Research Assessment Exercise 2008 identified particular strengths within the Department (previously known as the School of Cancer Studies) including basic research in cytokinesis and DNA damage response, the molecular and cellular biology of lymphoid and myeloid leukaemias and the genetics of squamous cell carcinoma. Translational research developed around focussed themes such as novel biological therapeutics, and large multi-centre clinical trials in leukaemia and pancreatic cancer was also identified as a particular strength of the Department. Of the total research activity performed within the Department, 50% was deemed to be of world-leading or internationally excellent quality, and a further 50% internationally recognised.
The University has invested over £20million in cancer research which has been used for the creation of several new posts in the Department, and in the establishment of the University of Liverpool Cancer Research Centre (ULCRC) building. This commitment to cancer research has resulted in the launch of Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre – an organisation that brings together scientists, clinicians and local stakeholders to lead and deliver cancer research of the highest quality and importance..
Research income itself now exceeds £25m and includes funding from Cancer Research UK, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Northwest Cancer Research Fund, Kay Kendal Leukaemia Fund, Wellcome Trust, MRC, NIHR, BBSRC and a number of industrial partners. The Department also enjoys participation within the European Funding Networks.
Institute of Translational Medicine
The Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM) (http://www.liv.ac.uk/translational-medicine) comprises the Departments of:
- Cellular and Molecular Physiology
- Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology
- Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine
- Women’s and Children’s Health
The overarching themes of Translational Medicine are:
- Basic studies which define the biological effects of therapeutics in humans.
- Non-human or non-clinical studies conducted with the intent to advance therapies to the clinic or develop principles for application of therapeutics to human disease.
- Investigations in humans which define the biology of disease and provide the scientific foundation for the development of new or improved therapies for human disease.
- Any clinical trial of a therapy that was initiated based on the above.
- The biology-chemistry “bridge”.
Translational medicine is a two-way street from bedside to bench and back again and also from bench to bedside. This is because not all in vitro and in vivo models replicate human disease. It is only possible to translate high quality basic research. Therefore, it is vital that we have integration of clinical, whole animal and in vitro work. This must be underpinned by strong cellular, molecular and bioanalytical technologies alongside clinical networks. The integration of practical research with theoretical advances is being strengthened by advances in Computational and Systems Biology.
A primary aim of the Institute is to provide the necessary infrastructure, facilities, professional support and environment to foster collaborative research between basic science and clinical science postgraduates. The Institute of Translational Medicine will draw on the established expertise within each Department to foster, develop and enhance translational medicine work streams and projects throughout the Institute as a whole. The Institute has close links with the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) and participates in both undergraduate and taught postgraduate teaching including CPDs.
The Institute runs a comprehensive Master in Biomedical Sciences and Translational Medicine (MRes) programme with ten research strands (pathways) covering all it core areas.
- Biology of Cancer
- Biomedical Imaging and Biosensing
- Biostatistics (with Health Informatics)
- Cancer Medicine
- Cellular and Molecular Physiology
- Drug Safety
- Medical Sciences
- Molecular and Clinical Gastroenterology
- Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology
- Stem Cells, Tissues and Disease
- Women’s, Children’s and Perinatal Health
All departments in the Institute of Translational Medicine also offer a comprehensive range of MD, MPhil, and PhD programmes both full time and part time in all their core areas (see for detailed programme codes and how to apply under the individual departments).
Dr Joseph Slupsky
The University of Liverpool provides a dynamic atmosphere that is conducive to scientific discussion and collaboration.
What do you consider a PG degree from your department has to offer and benefit a prospective student both within their academic discipline and outside? (For instance, what transferable skills are gained; what knowledge do you consider is applicable to other career paths)?
The skills gained from a PG degree from the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine allow for careers in academia as well as industry. We provide experience in public speaking and engagement.
Please describe your research interests and any research projects you are involved with.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is a cancer of B cells (a component of white blood cells) and is important because it is the most common adult leukaemia, accounting for 34% of all leukaemias in the U.K.. Furthermore, despite significant advances in understanding the biology of CLL, this disease remains incurable and current treatment mainly focuses on relief of symptoms and disease progression. Therefore, further insights into the molecular events that either give rise to this disease, or contribute to its progression are critical for developing new therapeutic modalities for its treatment.
My research is focussed on understanding the pathobiology of CLL cells. In particular, the people in my group are investigating the mechanisms that give CLL cells their cancerous behaviour. Thus, we are characterising the mechanisms that control the expression of genes important to the phenotype of these cells, as well as the intracellular signalling and metabolic pathways that contribute to their survival.
What do you see as the significance and impact of your research within your own specialism and beyond (potentially to society at large)? Do you consider your research to be ‘making a difference’ (improving lives, shaping policy, or expanding the boundaries of our knowledge and changing perceptions)?
There are over 3000 new diagnosis of Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) made per year in the U.K.. All patients diagnosed with this disease will require lifelong follow up, and many will suffer major morbidity. Although some patients will have indolent disease, others will require treatment due to disease progression. Of these patients requiring treatment, about a third will develop disease that is refractory to conventional therapy. Therefore, this disease places significant burden on the NHS, and there is an urgent need to develop new therapies. We see the work we do as helping patients with CLL. The identification of new therapies requires characterization of validated targets that will in themselves have application in the treatment of CLL, or will enhance existing first-line treatments.
Who funds or contributes funding to your research – is it a particularly prestigious or renowned organisation or business? Does your research have commercial potential or application?
My current research is funded by grants from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (a UK charity dedicated to research into blood cancers) and by Astra Zeneca (a global pharmaceutical company that is based within the U.K.).
Does pursuing your research involve travel to particularly interesting or prominent places? Does it involve collaboration with particularly interesting or prominent institutions or organisations?
Attendance at scientific conferences is an important aspect of scientific research because it allows the possibility of discussion and the building of networks. I try very hard to be able to send my PGR students to such conferences during their PhD studies so that they are able to undertake these activities to the benefit of their careers.
What skills, qualifications and experience do your students usually have?
The qualifications of the students I take for PGR have either a first or upper second class degree. Many of my students come from overseas, and these students have achieved degrees in there home institutions that are either of distinction or merit quality.
Is there an academic route that they’ve usually taken before they apply for your programme(s)?
All students who come into my lab should have an undergraduate degree, preferably in biology/biochemistry-based disciplines.
Could you please give an outline of the qualifications, experience, and any characteristics you seek in prospective postgraduate students?
Although direct laboratory experience is an asset, willingness to learn, discuss and contribute are more important. Self motivation is also a key quality of the students I like to take on because hypotheses are usually wrong and experiments do not always work.
What’s your research about? Does your research take you anywhere interesting e.g. foreign countries, important sites/projects? Do you collaborate with anyone? Has your research made a difference to anything/one? What’s been the impact?
Since my arrival in Liverpool in October 2000 I have focussed my research on understanding the pathobiologies of hairy cell and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. I have authored or co-authored 13 published articles in high-impact journals such as Blood (Impact Factor 10.5, n=7), Cancer Research (Impact Factor 8.2, n=3), Oncogene (Impact Factor 7.4, n=1), Journal of Immunology (Impact Factor 5.7, n=1) and The American Journal of Pathology (Impact Factor 5.2, n=1). Some of my papers have been recognised as outstanding by other scientists. In particular, one of my most recent articles (Blood. 2010 Jun 3;115(22):4447-54) was highlighted in the same issue of Blood as a paper of special interest (see Blood. 2010 Jun 3;115(22):4325-6), and previous work in this area (Blood. 2007 Feb 1;109(3):1193-201.) has been cited as being of special interest (Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2011 Aug;20(8):1167-74). I am particularly proud of the first paper I published when I came to Liverpool (Cancer Res. 2001 May 1;61(9):3595-8). This paper is cited over 70 times, and the work it describes was instrumental for understanding both the relationship between cRaf and BRaf in cells, and the mechanism of how drugs targeting BRaf work in certain forms of cancer.
What do you love most about the University of Liverpool?
The University of Liverpool provides a dynamic atmosphere that is conducive to scientific discussion and collaboration. This is particularly the case within the Department of Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine.
Why should prospective students study a postgraduate qualification here?
The qualifications and training they will receive whilst undertaking a postgraduate degree is second to none.