PhD in Medicine: Targeting Ref1/STAT3 to treat Tuberous Sclerosis

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    Cardiff University
    United Kingdom
    Natural sciences
    Professions and applied sciences
    First Stage Researcher (R1) (Up to the point of PhD)


This project will work on drugs that are in clinical development as a new therapy to treat tumours focusing on a genetic disease, called Tuberous Sclerosis, where patients are predisposed to acquiring tumours in the brain, kidney and skin.

The current clinical therapy to reduce tumour volume in Tuberous Sclerosis patients is rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR (called mammalian target of rapamycin). However, not all tumours respond to this drug and even when effective, the tumours regrow when the treatment is stopped.

There is a clear clinical need to find a better therapy for these patients, but importantly this research will also benefit other patients with cancer. After five years of testing the tumour vulnerabilities, we believe that we now have a better therapy.

We are able to robustly block tumour formation when we target two proteins within the tumour called Ref-1 and STAT3. We have a series of new drugs in clinical development that target Ref-1 and STAT3 (we are working with our industrial partner, ApeX Therapeutics). These new drugs will be tested by the student within our international TS research team.

By working closely with industry and our international collaborators our intention is to fast-track this research to the clinic. To move our recent discovery towards a treatment, we will examine how TS tumour cells respond to these new drug treatments and will compare them to existing treatments.

This study will not only improve our current knowledge of how these new drugs work to prevent tumour growth, but will also help guide future research to find an effective and better cure for patients with TS. As part of this work, the student will be trained in a range of techniques to use patient-derived tumour models in tissue culture to explore drug activity and mechanism of action.

What is funded

Full UK/EU tuition fees and Doctoral stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum

£31,000 is included to support consumables over the three years.


3 years


UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply.

Candidates are expected to have a life sciences degree, with a confirmed or predicted First or Upper Second classification. A Master’s degree or industrial experience is beneficial, but not essential.