Cancer ion channels and the immune microenvironment

Supervisor:  Dr Will Brackenbury

Co-Supervisor:  Dr Dimitris Lagos

Project description:

Even though immunotherapy is revolutionising cancer treatment, a significant portion of patients do not respond, whereas patients who do benefit are likely to experience autoimmune-like syndromes. Ion channels are functional in cancer cells and can regulate tumour progression. Critically, the ionic content of tumours can itself regulate immune cell activation. However, how this relates to ion channel activities on cancer and immune cells remains unknown. To improve immunotherapies, we need to understand mechanisms that control physiological activation of immune cells in tumours. The aim of this project is to test the hypothesis that ion channel activity in tumours can influence behaviour of cells in the tumour immune microenvironment. We will use targeted approaches to silence or switch on the expression of ion channels. We will then study the effect of these ion channel alterations on behaviour of cancer and immune cells, including electrophysiological properties and downstream signalling. We will use a range of sophisticated electrophysiological and microscopy approaches, e.g. whole-cell patch clamp recording, immunohistochemistry, ion- and membrane potential-sensitive dyes together with confocal microscopy, to explore the dependence of cancer cell behaviour and immune cell activation on ion channel activity. The project will therefore expose the student to a range of cutting-edge genetic, in vivo and cell biology techniques. As ion channels play key roles in a number of diseases, including cancer, this project is expected to provide novel mechanistic insights into the biology of important therapeutic targets. 

We strongly encourage you to email the project supervisor prior to submitting an application to discuss your suitability for this project.  Please email:

Funding:  This studentship is fully funded for 3 years by the Department of Biology and covers: (i) a tax-free stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£14,533 for 2017-2018, to be confirmed for 2018-2019), (ii) research costs, and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

Start date: October 2018

Please read the 'How to apply' tab before submitting your application.

Applications are now closed

Interviews will be held on Monday 5 or Tuesday 6 February 2018 - TBC