Vitamin C microbubbles as therapeutic agents for colorectal cancer

Supervisor(s)

Contact Professor Stephen EvansDr Elizabeth Valleley or Dr Louise Coletta to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Recent published studies have shown that Vitamin C can target and kill colorectal cancer cells that contain gene mutations that are present in approximately 50% of colorectal cancer tumours. Vitamin C can also enhance the effects of some anti-cancer drugs, and therefore there is potential for new combination treatments to be developed. Unfortunately, vitamin C is not very stable in the body and patients can’t take enough through their diet to kill cancer cells. High doses can be given by injection but this has a risk of side effects.

The aim of this project is to try to overcome these difficulties by developing tiny gas-filled lipid bubbles called microbubbles, to carry vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid or ascorbate) directly into the tumour, through the bloodstream. A stable form of ascorbate that will be incorporated either directly into the microbubbles or into liposomes attached onto the microbubbles: both forms will be tested.

The resulting ascorbate microbubbles will be tested on tumour cells grown in the lab to see if they can kill cells and to investigate appropriate combinations with other anti-cancer drugs. The colorectal cancer cells will be grown as three-dimensional spheroids or as organoid models to mimic tumours in vitro. In the future, the aim is for therapeutic microbubbles to be injected into a patient’s bloodstream to visualize the tumours during ultrasound (US) scans.

Targeted drug delivery will take place by delivering a short US pulse to burst the bubbles within the tumour. Therefore, the microbubbles will also be tested in vitro in combination with ultrasound to observe tumour cell response to the microbubbles, US and drug combinations. In the future, these microbubbles could be used to improve the localized delivery of vitamin C and an anti-cancer drug directly into a patient’s tumour. Such therapeutic microbubbles could benefit patients with certain types of colorectal cancer, and potentially for other types of cancer too.

Entry requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with or expecting a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2:1), and/or a Masters degree in a relevant subject.

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made online through the university's website. Please state clearly in the research information section that the PhD you wish to be considered for is 'Vitamin C microbubbles as therapeutic agents for colorectal cancer' as well as Steve Evans as your proposed supervisor.

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University's minimum English Language requirements.

We welcome scholarship applications from all suitably-qualified candidates, but UK black and minority ethnic (BME) researchers are currently under-represented in our Postgraduate Research community, and we would therefore particularly encourage applications from UK BME candidates. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office e: maps.pgr.admissions@leeds.ac.uk