PhD project: Unraveling metabolic targets for potentiating CD8+ T cell
function in metastatic melanoma
Last modification : Thursday, June 3, 2021
Research in the Lab of Metabolic Regulation of Cell Function (Department of
Cellular and Molecular Medicine) focuses on unraveling the metabolic cross-
talk between immune cells and cancer cells in metastatic cancer. Targeting
metabolic pathways central to T cell function has the potential to restore
immune balance in metastatic sites and thus combat metastatic spread. Notably,
metabolic therapy can synergize with immunotherapy strategies and result in
more effective cancer treatments. Our research is both of fundamental and
Metastatic melanoma represents a highly deadly disease with a 10-year survival
rate of less than 10%. Activation of the endogenous immune system through
immunotherapy has become a standard of care and has greatly improved
treatment. Drugs that induce T cell responses against tumor-associated
antigens have led, in many cases, to the specific targeting and killing of
tumor cells. Yet, especially in metastatic sites, a significant subset of
tumors can inhibit T cell effector function and evade the immune system.
Indeed, the tumor microenvironment (TME) seems to represent a hostile niche
that inhibits the function of infiltrating T cells and transforms them into an
inactive exhausted state. Recently, metabolic reprogramming has emerged as a
key hallmark of immune responses. To support their proliferation and survival,
activated T cells use fuels to generate precursors required for macromolecular
synthesis, energy, stress response, and other pro-survival pathways. As cancer
cells possess a hyperactive metabolism needed to fuel their unrestricted
proliferation, depletion of nutrients and an accumulation of metabolic waste
products might represent a major nutritional hurdle for infiltrating T cells.
This study aims to map the metabolic requirements of T cells within the TME,
develop strategies to potentiate T cell metabolism within this hostile niche,
and thus use metabolic therapy to reactivate exhausted T cells and drive their
cytotoxic function in immunocompromised metastasis. This project has the
potential to open a new avenue of combinatorial treatment based on both
immunotherapy and metabolic intervention to enhance the efficacy of
immunotherapy and transform the standard of care for metastatic melanoma.
You obtained a Master degree in Biomedical Sciences, Medicine,
Biochemistry, Bioengineering or Biology.
You are highly motivated, critical and creative.
You are willing to work with animals (mice); previous mice experience is
You can work independently but are also a team player.
You have an excellent knowledge of English, spoken and written.
Prior metabolomics experience is a plus.
You can do state-of-the-art, innovative research in an emerging scientific
You will get excellent guidance and supervision.
You will be stimulated and supported to integrate your own research ideas
and goals within the project.
You can collaborate with several other national and international research
teams, allowing you to broaden your scientific knowledge and network.
You will get a 1-year-PhD fellowship that is conditionally extendable up
to 4 years; additional application for a personal PhD fellowship is
In principle, the start date of the PhD is 1 October 2021, but this is
flexible in joint consultation with your supervisor.
For more information please contact Prof. dr. Ilaria Elia, tel.: +32 16 19 42
53, mail: email@example.com. Please include a detailed CV, a motivation
letter, and the contact information of two referees.
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