PhD Studentships

  • Application deadline - 18 March 2019, 1700 hrs GMT
  • Interview, Alderley Park, Cheshire - Thursday 11 April 2019

Available Project

Caroline Dive [CBE] and Carlos Lopez-Garcia

Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group Homepage

Investigating the process of cancerization in lung squamous cell carcinoma by sequential genetic engineering of primary human basal cells

This 4 year PhD studentship is based at the CRUK Manchester Institute, Alderley Park, Cheshire site

Despite novel therapeutic modalities, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is still an unmet need in lung cancer research, particularly in the area of early diagnosis and the treatment of the advanced disease, where existing therapies have little effect (less than 20% of stage 4 patients survive more than 1 year after diagnosis). Lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) is a frequent subtype of NSCLC (40%). It is strongly associated with cigarette smoking and presents specific cellular and genomic traits fully differentiated from the rest of lung cancer types. LUSC arises from the accumulation of genetic changes of basal cells, the resident stem cells in the proximal bronchial epithelium, affecting key cellular processes such as the squamous differentiation pathway among others.

The advent of next-generation sequencing that has enabled us to interrogate the genomic landscapes of large cohorts of cancer patients has been crucial to understand the complexity of the cancer genomes. In LUSC, this projects have unveiled extensive inter-patient and intra-tumour heterogeneity together with a recurrent pattern of frequent mutations in driver genes such as TP53 and CDKN2A, and a myriad of less frequent mutations with frequent functional redundancy. This novel knowledge, in combination with new methodologies that enable us to efficiently culture human primary basal cells, offers an ideal opportunity to investigate the process of cancerization in the bronchial epithelium and to develop a human model of LUSC of obvious interest in translational research.

The Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology Group, led by Professor Caroline Dive, has a long-standing trajectory in translational lung cancer research, pioneering the use of liquid biopsies to develop novel clinical biomarkers (Carter et al., 2017, Morrow et al., 2016). The aim of this project is to investigate the process of cancerization in LUSC by sequential genetic-engineering of human basal cells. With this strategy, we intend to identify the crucial genomic events that determine the transformation of basal cells as well as develop a human model of LUSC that will complement and improve the existing preclinical models. The student will work in close collaboration with Dr Carlos Lopez-Garcia in this project and will perform a wide range of cell biology and molecular techniques, including Crispr/Cas9, 3D-organotypic cultures and next-generation sequencing. This project also offers an ideal educational opportunity, acquiring a wide range of experience and multidisciplinary knowledge on cancer biology and genetics in a world-class scientific environment.

Dr Carlos Lopez-Garcia is currently based at the Imperial College, London and will be joining the Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology group at the CRUK Manchester Institute, Alderley Park in March 2019.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to Dr Carlos Lopez-Garcia -



This position is funded by Cancer Research UK for the 4 year duration. The successful candidate will join the CRUK Manchester Institute & will be affiliated to the University of Manchester on the same studentship terms and conditions as all CRUK MI students.

The successful applicant will be awarded a non-taxable & national insurance free annual stipend of £19,000/annum plus payment of university tuition and bench fees.

Postgraduate Study

A PhD should be an exciting and stimulating time. We are looking for talented and motivated graduates with backgrounds in biological sciences, mathematics, computer science and/or chemistry interested in pursuing scientific research careers.  As well as benefitting from dynamic and interactive research environment, graduate students will also have access to outstanding facilities within the Institute.  Our fully funded PhD studentships are of four years' duration with full sponsorship covering tuition, bench, and stipend fees for the duration of the study period.  Studentships are advertised annually (usually beginning of October) with interviews being held in January.   Students register with The University of Manchester to commence their PhD the following September.  Additional vacancies may be advertised throughout the year.  University registration entry points are also available annually in January or April.

On the 26 April 2017 The Paterson Building, which housed most of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, suffered a major fire resulting in significant damage. We are striving to rebuild our world-class research facilities and we would like to make you aware that in the meantime, our studentships will either be at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (MCRC) Building in South Manchester, which has excellent facilities to carry out research, or at the internationally-renowned life sciences campus at Alderley Park. After relocation we will return to our original site in Withington, Manchester, next to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust (Wilmslow Road, M20 4BX).


The EU Referendum and PhD Applications for 2019

The Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute is a proud to be a diverse, open, and global institution. Our priority, and that of the University of Manchester, is to support our current students and welcome new ones from Europe and other continents - we encourage students of all nationalities to apply for the programme.

We are pleased to announce that the UK Government's Department for Education has confirmed that students from the European Union, applying and commencing undergraduate and postgraduate university places in England in the 2019/20 academic year, will continue to be eligible for ‘home fee status’. This means they will be charged the same tuition fees as UK students for the duration of their studies, and even past the point that the UK leaves the European Union. For further information on funding support for EU students please visit

Non-EU/international students do not have their tuition fees capped in this way. For further information on fee eligibility please visit


Applications are invited from recent graduates or final year undergraduates who have, or are expected to obtain a first or minimum of upper second-class honours degree or equivalent from any recognised university. Previous laboratory experience is not a requirement for acceptance to the PhD programme; however such experience will clearly give a realistic insight into academic research.

Applicants for our funded studentships are open to UK, EU and International students who should hold, or be about to obtain, a first or minimum upper-second undergraduate degree in a related subject area.  

English Language Skills (Non-UK Applicants)

Applicants from outside the UK will often need to meet specific English language requirements in order to be able to study at The University of Manchester. The UK’s Home Office requires that every student from outside the UK and the European Union (EU) must show evidence of a minimum level of English language (called B2 level) in order to be granted a UK visa ('Tier 4' visa) to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Minimum entry criteria means you must have gained a minimum overall score of 6.5 (and not <5.5 in each component and 6.0 in writing). For further information on English Language admission criteria please visit

It is not mandatory to provide documentation relating to your English Language skills during the application process. However, if you are offered a studentship, you will be required to provide such documentation in advance of University registration.

Postgraduates working at the CRUK Manchester Institute benefit from:

  • Access to world-class facilities, including deep sequencing, microarrays, mass-spectrometry, advanced imaging, histology, GCLP labs and flow cytometry
  • Core funding by Cancer Research UK, the largest independent cancer research charity in the world
  • A generous stipend of £19,000 per year (tax and NI free)
  • Tuition fees paid for the full four years
  • Group leaders focused only on research and postgraduate training
  • Working alongside over 350 postdoctoral scientists, clinical fellows, scientific officers, administrative and technical staff, postgraduate research students and visiting fellows
  • Being at the heart of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, a partnership that brings together the expertise, vision and resources of its founding partners: The University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Cancer Research UK – all of which have formidable individual reputations in the fields of cancer treatment and basic and clinical research

For further information on the required documents to include with your application, see How to Apply.

Informal enquiries should be addressed to the Postgraduate Tutor at:

Self-Funding Students

If you have secured your own funding (stipend, tuition, bench and living fees) to undertake and support a PhD degree, and you are interested in study with a supervisor based at the CRUK Manchester Institute, you can submit an application directly to the University of Manchester for consideration;   Your application should clearly state how you intend to fund your studies for the duration, and include supporting sponsorship and financial documentation.  You will need to select "PhD Cancer Sciences" as the programme description on the application form.  Please note, regardless of funding, the CRUK Manchester Institute PhD academic admission criteria remains as above: a first or upper second class honours degree and minimum level of English language qualification.

We are committed to training the next generation of cancer research scientists, helping launch careers in basic, translational and clinical cancer research. Postgraduate students enjoy a supportive environment, a challenging project and, together with tailored training in transferable and generic skills, development as independent scientists with excellent career prospects will ensue.