What is this subject of this PhD?

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common tumours and cancer killers in the UK, with 40,000 people diagnosed each year. Colorectal cancer arises from epithelial cells lining the gut wall. These cancerous cells do not exist and grow in isolation: they are surrounded and supported by a many other cells, including immune and supportive cells. Understanding how these different cell types combine and interact as tumours evolve and how different treatments affect these interactions, is a major challenge and an exciting research opportunity. By mapping the patterns of how cells are spaced out, we can learn more about how they interact. These interactions can give us lots of information, such as the type of tumour and how it might respond to treatment.

What are the aims of this project?

This project will identify new mathematical and statistical characterisations of spatial cell interactions which might identify colorectal tumours more accurately than current methods. In particular, the student will identify “spatial biomarkers”, patterns of interacting cell types which could show tumour subtype, or predict response to certain treatments. These spatial analyses could be integrated into normal tumour analysis in the future, improving diagnosis and treatment planning for colorectal cancer.

The research team

This PhD will be supervised by Professor Helen Byrne at the University of Oxford. Professor Byrne’s research concerns the development and analysis of mathematical and computational models that describe biomedical systems, with a focus on the growth and treatment of solid tumours, wound healing and tissue engineering.