PhD Studentship: Understanding and improving the mechanisms of action of anti-GD2 monoclonal antibody therapy in neuroblastoma

Closing Date
21 Jun 2019
Centre for Cancer Immunology, University of Southampton, University of Southampton
Fixed term for 36 months

Main Supervisor:  Dr Juliet Gray, Associate Professor and Consultant in Paediatric Oncology

Other members of the supervisory team:  Professor Stephen Beers (Joint Main Supervisor)

Duration of the award: 36 months, full time

Project description:

Neuroblastoma is one of the commonest childhood cancers and for, the majority of children, the prognosis is poor.  In recent years,  the addition of anti-GD2 monoclonal antibodies immunotherapy  to standard treatments  has significantly improves outcome, and is now considered a standard of care. However, although early outcome is significantly improved, long term benefits are less clear, suggesting that in many children relapse is delayed rather than prevented. Furthermore, the treatment burden of current anti-GD2 mAb therapies is significant, with significant pain and neurotoxicity. Current strategies have focused on maximising Fc-dependent immune effector mechanisms to improve efficacy, but other ganglioside properties, such as cell adhesion, immunosuppression and promotion of angiogenesis, may also be targeted to achieve therapeutic effects. Blocking these pro-tumour ganglioside effects could potentially be achieved without the toxicity of current antibodies. We are seeking a bright and motivated student to generate and fully characterise a panel of mouse and human anti-GD2 isotypes, to establish the relative importance of different mechanisms of action to efficacy and toxicity to guide the design of a next generation optimised antibody. They will compare the therapeutic and neurotoxic effects of the different antibodies in collaboration with the Neurosciences research team at Oxford, using an established myelinated human neurone model. Finally, they will investigate if the therapeutic effects of the optimal antibody can be further improved by combining with either anti-PD-1 antibody or a STING agonist.

Please contact:  Dr Juliet Gray

Person Specification: See below.

We seek a candidate with the following qualities:

  • A strong enthusiasm for 3D modelling and immunological assays.
  • A confident, independent attitude enabling them to work collaboratively across multiple interfaces (immunology, neurosciences) and institutions (Southampton and Oxford) .
  • A good team worker and communicator.
  • An organised thinker, able to drive diverse project aspects and manage time efficiently.

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1stor 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Funding information: The project is funded for 3 years by Neuroblastoma UK  and welcomes applicants from the UK only, due to funding restrictions of fees. Funding will cover fees, project consumables and a stipend of £15,147pa for 2019-20

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

You should enter Dr Juliet Gray as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date).

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to

Closing date:   21h June 2019

Interview date:   2nd July 2019

For more information and to apply, click here

Contact Details

Dr Juliet Gray: