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Inflammation has been implicated in the aetiology of prostate cancer; however, the findings from observational, histopathological and genetic studies are inconsistent. Most biomarker studies have measured a limited number of inflammation and immune response-related markers, and there are few published prospective data on risk for aggressive prostate cancer. The recent development of high-throughput and multiplexed approaches to measuring proteins has made it possible to simultaneously measure many inflammation-related protein biomarkers using small sample volumes.

The DPhil Project: This is a project on the molecular epidemiology of prostate cancer in the European EPIC Study, with a focus on the role of inflammation in the development of aggressive prostate cancer.

The exact project will be shaped by the student with the supervisors, but one area of possible research is into the epidemiology of proteomic measures of inflammation, immune response and prostate cancer.

The EPIC cohort includes ~150,000 men recruited in 1993-2000 in eight countries in Europe, with extensive genetic and phenotypic data, including biochemical assays from blood samples, and over 3 million person years of follow-up ( More than 7000 men have been diagnosed with incident prostate cancer, of whom 2000 had aggressive disease. Nested case-control analyses to date in EPIC have included 1000 to 3500 prostate cancer cases. Students may also analyse data from the UK Biobank cohort, in which 5700 incident prostate cancers have been diagnosed to date.

As well as prospective analyses of circulating biomarkers of inflammation and aggressive prostate cancer risk, the project may involve analyses of the interrelationships of inflammation-related proteins with other biomarkers and risk factors, including diet, physical activity and adiposity. The research will involve a range of methodological techniques including prospective and cross-sectional analyses, the analysis of biomarker and questionnaire data, and the incorporation of genetic data in epidemiological analyses. The student may conduct Mendelian randomisation analyses of selected protein markers in relation to risk for prostate cancer, using data from the PRACTICAL consortium with information on 200,000 men and more than 6000 cases of aggressive prostate cancer. 


This project will provide the successful applicant with excellent training in large-scale molecular epidemiology and the statistical analysis of prospective data. It will provide opportunities to network with other investigators both locally and with international collaborators. The student will receive training in conducting literature reviews and writing academic papers for peer-reviewed journals and will work closely with a strong interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in epidemiology, biomarker and molecular epidemiology, statistics, clinical medicine and biochemistry.


It is anticipated that the student will make research visits to our EPIC collaborators at the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), Lyon, France, who are working on similar projects. 


This project will suit someone with an interest in molecular epidemiology and the aetiology of cancer, who is looking to expand their skills and experience in epidemiological study design, the statistical analysis of biomarker and other epidemiological data and Mendelian randomisation analyses.