PhD Student Immunotherapy in Neuroblastoma Patients – Molenaar Group

The Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology in Utrecht is the national research hospital concentrating healthcare, research, and education with regard to pediatric cancer. The institute aims to provide the highest level of care for all children with cancer and has the ambition to cure all children of cancer and improve quality of life. The center brings together the best possible care and scientific research, creating a unique interdisciplinary institute for pediatric oncology in Europe. Recently, immunotherapy has become an important strategic focus within the center, with an in-house (CAR-T) cell therapy facility currently under construction.

The Molenaar group

Our group aims to translate immunological and molecular genetic knowledge of pediatric solid tumors into new clinical applicable therapeutic interventions, with a specific focus on neuroblastoma. Children with neuroblastoma, a solid tumor arising from neural crest cells, have a poor prognosis with overall survival of less than 50% in high stage disease. Therefore, new therapeutic interventions are direly needed. We combine different areas of expertise including analysis of the tumor immune environment, high-throughput drug screening, precision medicine, and bioinformatics to identify novel (combination) therapies.

The position

In our group, we aim to identify immunoregulatory mechanisms in the tumor microenvironment of neuroblastoma patients, to find new targets for immunotherapeutic interventions and biomarkers. We make use of state-of-the-art techniques, including single-cell RNA sequencing, imaging mass cytometry and high-dimensional flow cytometry to unravel neuroblastoma’s immune environment and identify new targets. Target identification will be aimed at both undermining tumor immune evasion and increasing the anti-tumor effectivity of immune cells. Furthermore, we have access to different neuroblastoma model systems (e.g. organoids, mouse models) to validate newly identified therapeutic strategies in vitro and in vivo. In your PhD project, you will be involved in several projects that encompass prediction of response to (targeted) therapies and therapy combination.

In this new project in collaboration with our industry partner Roche we will focus on identifying immune targets which have the potential of being translated into the clinical setting. In this PhD, you will generate single-cell RNA sequencing data from tumor material as well as analyze existing single-cell RNA sequencing data from our group, to generate an in-depth atlas of the neuroblastoma immune environment and prioritize the most promising targets for therapeutic intervention. Specific immune targets will be validated by flow cytometry of tumor samples and patient-derived organoids. In addition, you will functionally validate therapeutic interventions against these targets in vitro (with organoids) and possibly also in vivo (mouse models). Moreover, part of the project will be a data-oriented systematic literature review (called target actionability review) of the candidate targets with the highest potential for clinical translation.

Education and skills

For this vacancy we are looking for an enthusiastic, motivated candidate with a master’s degree in Medical Biology, Computational Biology, Life Sciences or in a related field. This PhD trajectory will encompass both ‘dry’ lab (i.e. data analysis, systematic review) and ‘wet’ lab (e.g. cell culture, flow cytometry) work, so previous experience with both will be greatly appreciated. More specifically, expertise with data-analysis in R or Python, a background in (tumor) immunology and experience with flow cytometry and cell culture is preferred. This vacancy also requires command of both oral and written English, excellent communication, and organization skills as well as the ability to work within a dynamic group.

We offer

A temporary, full-time PhD position for a total duration of 4 years (36 hours / week) in an ambitious and internationally recognized team. You will initially be contracted for a period of 1 year, after which your performance will be evaluated, and the contract may be extended for three more years. The Princess Máxima Center operates according to the collective labor agreement ‘cao algemene ziekenhuizen’. Your gross monthly salary will include an 8,33% gross monthly salary holiday allowance and 8,33 % end-of-year bonus.

How to apply

You can apply for this position until 12-12-2022 by pressing the orange apply button on this screen. Please note that we will start interviews based on incoming applications already before the 12th of December. Please provide:

  • an up-to-date resume/CV
  • a short motivation letter describing your background and interests
  • contact information of 2 references

For more information, please contact Dr. Judith Wienke.

Acquisitie naar aanleiding van deze vacature wordt niet op prijs gesteld.

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