UCL EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Intelligent Integrated Imaging in Healthcare


PET/CT for the Tracking of Positron Labelled Cell Therapies in the Diseased Lung

Now closed


22 August 2019

Project now allocated

4-Year PhD Studentship: The Use of PET/CT for the Tracking of Positron Labelled Cell Therapies to Investigate Cell Distribution and Therapeutic Efficacy in the Diseased Lung

Primary Supervisor: Dr Tammy Louise Kalber (UCL, Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging)

Secondary Supervisors: Dr Beverley Holman (Department of Nuclear Medicine,Royal Free NHS Trust), Fred Wilson (GlaxoSmithKline [GSK])

Project summary

A 4-year PhD studentship is available in the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI), working closely with the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust. The funding covers an annual tax free stipend (at least £17009) and tuition fees. As this is a GSK/EPSRC funded studentship the standard EPSRC eligibility criteria apply, please see the EPSRC website for details. The successful candidate will be enrolled onto the UCL CDT in Intelligent Integrated Imaging in Healthcare (i4health) and benefit from the being part of a cohort of PhD students as well as participation in the activities and events organised by the centre.


Cell therapies provide potential treatments for lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases that that have limited treatment options and poor survival rates.However, thedistribution of cells in patients is currently unknown and unpredictable due to the complexity of cell/host interactions. We have validated 89-Zirconium (89Zr)-oxine as a rapid cell label agent for PET/CT in mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) at clinical doses for their application within an imaging arm of Phase II of the UCL TACTICAL (Targeted Stem Cells expressing TRAIL as therapy for lung cancer). However, 89Zr is not yet widely used in clinical practice and accurate quantitation of positron-based radiotracers within the lung is generally challenging. To clearly understand cell localization and distribution quantitative measures applicable to both healthy and diseased lung tissue, and to data acquired from preclinical and clinical PET/CT systems, are required.

Research Aims

The project will investigate the use of 89Zr-oxine for tracking cell therapies in lung diseases by improving the current imaging analysis methods to accurately and quantitatively track cells throughout the lung by PET/CT. The project will utilize dedicated imaging phantoms as well as in vivolung disease model systems (lung cancer and fibrosis) to validate the analysis methods for the quantitation of cell distribution in healthy and diseased tissue (diffuse and solid lesions). This distribution analysis will then be clinically translated to validate the ability of PET to track radiolabelled cells in patients with end stage lung cancer acquired from the TACTICAL trial. This analysis in correlation with imaging outputs of disease progression will enable assessment of therapeutic efficacy.

Applicants are expected to have a first degree in Physics, Computer Science or Biomedical Engineering or relevant Physical Sciences based subject passed at 2:1 level (UK system or equivalent) or above.  Good working knowledge of computer programming is required. Knowledge of MATLAB and some experience with medical imaging and/or medical image analysis is also desirable.

To Apply: Please send a CV and Covering Letter expressing your interest to Dr Tammy Kalber t.kalber@ucl.ac.uk