Investigating the mechanism of venom toxins as a potential therapeutic option for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)



Funded PhD Opportunity

Investigating the mechanism of venom toxins as a potential therapeutic option for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Project Description

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is characterised by an excess of immature haematopoietic cells which molecular analysis has identified many acquired genetic mutations and chromosomal translocations. These can be used for disease classification and prognosis. Outcomes are poor, particularly for elderly patients who are often unable to tolerate intensive chemotherapy. There is therefore an unmet need for new, more effective and better tolerated therapies.
Snake venom toxins provide a valuable source of drug compounds for many diseases, including cancer. Snake venom contains many different proteins, peptides and other bioactive molecules that are incompletely characterised. These components include L-amino acid oxidases (LAAO) that could be evaluated as a therapy for cardiovascular disease and as a potential reactive oxidase (ROS) based cancer therapy in addition to compounds that interact with membrane ion channels (cellular communication channels).

Ion channels represent novel targets in leukaemia, and our preliminary studies have indicated that leukaemia cells are sensitive to venom isolated from different snakes and toad skin secretions. As these venoms contain well-characterised ion channel modulators, which target K+ and Ca2+ channels on the membrane, it is possible that one of the mechanisms through which leukaemic cells respond to venom is via ion channel blockade. Intriguingly, whilst normal bone marrow stem cells are sensitive to the venom toxic effect, they seem to recover proliferative potential.

This project will build on ongoing studies to identify the active compounds within venoms and identify their mechanism of action in leukaemic cells.



Candidates should have or expect to obtain a 2:1 or higher Honours degree or equivalent in a relevant biomedical or life sciences subject.

English Language

Candidates applying from countries where the first language is not English should produce evidence of their competence through a qualification such as IELTS or TOEFL score.

The minimum recommended score for the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science is:
• IELTS score of 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in each of the four component elements of listening, reading, speaking and writing taken within the last 2 years;
• TOEFL score of 80+ (internet basted test), taken within the last 2 years, with minimum component scores of; Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20, Writing 17);
• A valid Certificate of Proficiency in English grade A or B;
• A valid Certificate of Advanced English grade A; or
• A first or upper second class honours degree from a university based in the UK, Republic of Ireland or other suitably quality assured location in a country deemed by the UK Border Agency to be majority English speaking.

For a list of English Language qualifications also accepted by the School and University please see the following link:

The English Language Unit (ELU) offers both pre-sessional and in-sessional courses in English for academic purposes and study skills. Courses vary in length and full information can be obtained from the ELU


Closing Date

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Funding Notes

*FUNDING CONFIRMED – Leukaemia & Lymphoma NI*

Eligibility for both fees (£4260 for 2018/19, 2019/20 TBC) and maintenance (£14,777 for 2018/19, 2019/20 TBC) depends on the applicants being either an ordinary UK or EU resident.


Please visit the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, website for further details about the Centre:

When applying, please choose 'MEDICINE' as your subject area/School. 



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