MPhil/PhD Studentship in Co-Targeting the IGF/Insulin and Autophagy pathways - a therapeutic approach to treat triple-negative breast cancer

Investing in excellence: studentship opportunities

The University of Derby has an opportunity for a full-time postgraduate research studentship in the area of Breast Cancer research.

Qualification type: Location: Funding amount: Hours: Closes: Interview: Start date:
MPhil/PhD Derby, UK £17,668 stipend pa + UK home tuition fees full time Monday 12 June 2023, 12.00 pm June/July September 2023

The successful applicant will receive a maintenance stipend (based on the minimum stipend defined by UKRI, currently £17,668 for the academic year 2022/23) and home MPhil/PhD tuition fees only up to the target submission date. The post also covers a personal development budget of £1,000 per annum for 3/4 years.

Please note, if your application is successful and you are assessed as Overseas for fees purposes, you will need to pay the difference between the Home fees and the EU/Overseas fees.

The intended intake period is September 2023, or the next available intake. 

The successful applicant will be expected to complete their MPhil/PhD within 3 years on the MPhil/PhD route, contribute to the College of Science and Engineering REF submission and get involved in the wider research activities of the College. 

Applicants will become part of a friendly and welcoming team and will be supported and managed by their supervisors. 

The vacancy details are as follows: 


To understand how nutrient signals and BCATc, regulate insulin/IGF-mediated mechanisms that promote tumorigenesis through dysregulated autophagy.

Project description 

The cytosolic branched-chain aminotransferase protein (BCATc, also known as BCAT1) has been identified as a potential therapeutic target of solid tumours such as glioblastomas and breast. We and others have established that the levels of the BCAT protein were significantly elevated in glioblastomas, which correlated with increased grade and aggressiveness, and more recently reported in triple-negative breast tumours (TNC).

We have identified a BCATc-mediated pathway linked to insulin/IGF-1 signalling that regulates proliferation through the GRB2-SOS-Ras-MAPK and P13K-PDK-1-AKT-mTORC1/autophagy axis offering a new therapeutic target to treat tumour progression. Links have also been established with novel cell death pathways, considered to contribute to these outcomes.

Potential project impact 

These studies will identify novel therapeutic targets that will directly impact patient survival. Finally, the BCAT proteins have potential as new biomarkers of solid tumours that will have clinical utility as prognostic markers.

Principal accountabilities and responsibilities

The student will be responsible for the co-design and development of the technical approaches to achieve the outcomes and objectives of the project. They will conduct all experimental aspects of the project, including data analysis, reporting and preparation of subsequent publications. The student will be part of a wider team and will be expected to contribute to presentations, attendance at conferences and public engagement events.

To apply 

Completed applications should be submitted via our online application system quoting funding reference: S&E_PGRS_BreastCancer_0423 

For other enquiries which are subject-specific please contact Professor Myra Conway (

Interviews: June/July 2023

If you have not been invited for an interview by the interview date, please assume your application has been unsuccessful.

Find out more about our research degrees.

Apply for this SE studentship post