UCL Cancer Institute


PhD Studentship - High resolution definition of mechanisms for graft-versus-leukaemia

This project is designed to test the hypothesis that the immune responses after transplantation are heterogeneous and tissue-specific.

  • Primary supervisor: Prof Ronjon Chakraverty
  • Secondary supervisors: Prof Adele Fielding and Dr Pedro Santos e Sousa

Application are now closed (10 January 2020).

Funding: Candidates will need to qualify as UK/EU fee payers.

Project description

The great benefit of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation for cancer patients comes from the ability of the new immune system to recognise and kill tumour cells. However, this graft-versus-leukaemia (GVL) effect is frequently accompanied by an undesired complication that results from the transplanted immune cells also targeting/damaging healthy organs (graft-versus-host disease, GVHD). Separation of GVL from GVHD has been frustrated by insufficient knowledge of the biological differences between the two processes.

This project is designed to test the hypothesis that the immune responses after transplantation are heterogeneous and tissue-specific, and that it is possible to uncouple their protective (anti-tumour and anti-viral) and pathogenic (GVHD-inducing) effects. Using cutting edge transcriptomic methodologies, we will compare how immune cells in the bone marrow function in the presence of tumour and identify the differences with those cells that cause injury in healthy tissues. Targeted gene editing of the immune cells will be used to distinguish the cellular programs critical for GVL versus GVHD.

The PhD student will be expected to develop skills in flow cytometry, cell sorting, single-cell RNA-sequencing and bioinformatics. The results from this project will help promote the development of new precision therapies for the enhancement of GVL and suppression of GVHD. More detailed information about the research project is available on request from r.chakraverty@ucl.ac.uk 

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.
  • Show initiative and the ability to make decisions in areas where no previous work has been undertaken.
  • Show awareness of your own developmental needs and undertake appropriate training where appropriate.
  • To comply with professional codes of conduct.


Person specification



  • Minimum upper second class Honours Degree in an associated discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.
  • Knowledge of cell biology and molecular biology
  • 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 R statistical programming language

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

Research environment

The UCL Cancer Institute is a state-of-the-art institute to consolidate cancer research at UCL and promote links with our partner teaching hospitals, in order to support excellence in basic and translational studies. The Institute draws together talented scientists who are working together to translate research discoveries into developing kinder, more effective therapies for cancer patients. It is a Cancer Research UK and Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, and contains approximately 580 staff, including 80 PhD and MD (Res) students and 30-40 MSc students. Core facilities within the Institute include: Genomics Facility (gene expression microarrays); Proteomics Facility; Imaging and Cell Sorting (confocal, time-lapsed microscopy, MoFlo FACS); Pathology Suite (laser capture microdissection, tissue arrays); Experimental Imaging (with UCL Institute of Child Health); and Transgenesis.



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

Application Procedure

Applications are now closed (10 January 2020). Details of this project are for reference only. 

Queries should be directed to: ci.pgeducation@ucl.ac.uk