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Role of cilia in oncogenic signaling and drug resistance

Primary cilia are microtubule-based antennae that detect mechanical and chemical stimuli. Although cilia house a number of oncogenic molecules (including Smoothened, KRAS, EGFR, and PDGFR), their precise role in cancer remains unclear. We recently found that cilia mediate acquired and de novo resistance to a variety of kinase inhibitors in cancer, and found that, in several examples, resistant cells are distinctly characterized by an increase in the number and/or length of cilia with altered structural features. Changes in ciliation seem to be linked to differences in the molecular composition of cilia and result in enhanced Hedgehog pathway activation.

The aim of this project is to elucidate the nature of the oncogenic pathways controlled by cilia and how do they change in resistant versus sensitive cells. This project will use biochemical approaches, microscopy, cell biology, molecular biology and cancer biology techniques.

References:

Barbara E. Tanos, Hui-Ju Yang, Rajesh Soni, Won-Jing Wang, Frank P. Macaluso, John M. Asara and Meng-Fu Bryan Tsou.Centriole distal appendages promote membrane docking, leading to cilia initiation. 2013. Genes Dev 27: 163-168.

T. Tony Yang, Weng Man Chong, Won-Jing Wang, Gregory Mazo, Barbara Tanos, Zhengmin Chen, Thi Minh Nguyet Tran, Yi-De Chen, Rueyhung Roc Weng, Chia-En Huang, Wann-Neng Jane, Meng-Fu Bryan Tsou, Jung-Chi Liao. Architecture of mammalian centriole distal appendages supports a matrix that gates the primary cilium. 2018. Nature Communications. 2018 May 22;9(1):2023. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-04469-1. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/193474

Andrew D. Jenks, Simon Vyse, Jocelyn P. Wong, Deborah Keller, Tom Burgoyne, Amelia Shoemark, Maike de la Roche, Martin Michaelis, Jindrich Cinatl, Paul H. Huang and Barbara E. Tanos. Primary cilia mediate diverse kinase inhibitor resistance mechanisms in cancer. 2018. 2018. Cell Reports. 2018 Jun 5;23(10):3042-3055. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.05.016.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for the above PhD topic please follow the steps below:

  1. Contact the supervisor by email or phone to discuss your interest and find out if you woold be suitable. Supervisor details can be found on this topic page. The supervisor will guide you in developing the topic-specific research proposal, which will form part of your application.
  2. Click on the 'Apply here' button on this page and you will be taken to the relevant PhD course page, where you can apply using an online application.
  3. Complete the online application indicating your selected supervisor and include the research proposal for the topic you have selected.

Good luck!

This is a self funded topic

Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. The UK Government is also offering Doctoral Student Loans for eligible students, and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.