UCL Cancer Institute


Identification of TME signals that determine tumour formation in Neurofibromatosis Type 1

This 3-year Cancer Research UK project will fund an exceptional UK/EU PhD student to identify the mechanisms by which signals in an injured microenvironment promote the development of tumours.

Full project title: Identification of microenvironment signals that determine tumour formation in the common tumour predisposition syndrome, Neurofibromatosis Type 1

  • Primary supervisor: Prof. Alison Lloyd
  • Secondary supervisor: Dr Julie Pitcher
  • Earliest start date: September 2019

Applications are CLOSED. (Deadlne: Monday 15 July 2019)


The microenvironment is key to determining whether or not a tumour will develop. We have developed a powerful mouse model that has key implications for our understanding of the critical role of the microenvironment in determining whether tumour develop in patients with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (NF1), a tumour predisposition syndrome in which patients develop multiple tumours in the nervous system. Schwann cells are the cell-of-origin for many of these tumours and the loss of the NF1 gene is the initiating event for these tumours. We have developed a unique mouse model in which we are able to track the early stages of the formation of these tumours. In this model, labeled Schwann cells lacking NF1 behave normally until the nerve is injured, when at the site of injury they develop tumours, whereas away from the injury site, they behave like normal Schwann cells following injury, in that they proliferate, aid the repair process, and then re-differentiate. Understanding the microenvironment signals which promote/suppress the formation of these tumours could have important clinical implications by identifying mechanisms to persuade the tumour cells to revert to more normal behaviour. This 3-year Cancer Research UK project will fund an exceptional UK/EU PhD student to identify the mechanisms by which signals in an injured microenvironment promote the development of tumours and determine the potential of developing therapeutics based on these findings. The student will use a combination of molecular analysis, sophisticated tissue imaging strategies including lineage analysis and live-imaging and in vivo tumour studies to address these aims.

The Lloyd cell biogenesis and tissue regeneration laboratory in situated at the MRC LMCB at UCL and investigates the links between tissue regeneration and tumour formation using peripheral nerves as a model system.

Key references from the laboratory

  • Stierli et al. The Regulation of the Homeostasis and Regeneration of Peripheral Nerve Is Distinct from the CNS and Independent of a Stem Cell Population. Development (2018)14;145(24).
  • Cattin et al. Macrophage-Induced Blood Vessels Guide Schwann Cell-Mediated Regeneration of Peripheral Nerves. Cell (2015) Aug 27;162(5):1127-39
  • Ribeiro et al. Injury signals cooperate with Nf1 loss to relieve the tumour-suppressive environment of adult peripheral nerve. Cell Reports (2013) 5(1) 126-13610
  • Napoli et al. A central role for the ERK-signalling pathway in controlling Schwann cell plasticity and peripheral nerve regeneration in vivo. Neuron (2012) 73, 729–742

More detailed information about the research project is available on request from Alison.lloyd@ucl.ac.uk.

Person specification


· Minimum upper second class Honours Degree in an associated discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

· Knowledge of cell and molecular biology. Interest in in vivo models of tumourigenesis.

· Preliminary knowledge of research techniques.

· Evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study.

· Ability to develop understanding of complex problems and apply in-depth knowledge to address them.

· Potential to develop expertise in new areas of the subject.

· Potential for innovation and initiative, and evidence of an ability to work independently.

· Effective communication skills in both written and spoken English.


· Relevant laboratory research experience.

· Experience of cell and molecular biology laboratory techniques. Experience with animal work would be an advantage.

Students will also need to qualify as UK/EU fee payers and meet UCL general admissions criteria.

Duties and responsibilities


· To apply highly specialist scientific skills and expertise to lead in the delivery of high quality research and the preparation of high-impact research publications.

· To keep abreast of current developments in this research area.

· To report research progress to the supervisory team, the Cancer Institute, and at scientific conferences and meetings.

· To work with other Scientists within the team as necessary.

· To work safely by adhering to all University policies and practices, including preparing and following laboratory risk assessments, and complying with Health and Safety policies, ethical approval processes and Human Tissue Act guidelines.

Analytical and Judgement Skills

· To demonstrate a high-level of technical and analytical skill to resolve highly complex scenarios, requiring analysis, interpretation and expert judgement to find the most appropriate solutions.

· To identify, interpret and integrate information from a wide variety of sources, and critically evaluate the quality and assumptions of these data.

· To show initiative and the ability to make decisions in areas where no previous work has been undertaken.

· To show awareness of your own developmental needs and undertake appropriate training where appropriate.

· To comply with professional codes of conduct.


Please note students will need a minimum of an upper second class Honours Degree in an associated discipline, or an overseas qualification of equivalent standard, qualify as a UK/EU fee payer and meet UCL general admissions criteria. Please see Personal Specification above for full details. 

Applications procedure

Applications are now CLOSED. (Deadlne: Monday 15 July 2019)

Queries about the application procedure or recruitment process should be directed to: Shoukia Bhatti, CI.Scholarships@ucl.ac.uk.