Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

FUNDED PhD: Dr Brona Murphy - Paediatric brain tumours

The aim of this project is to set an example for how innovative systems-level strategies can be exploited to address urgent clinical needs for developing predictive assays for existing drugs and new drug combinations.

Project title

Improving and personalising chemotherapy treatment options for paediatric brain tumour patients

Project description

Cerebellar medulloblastomas (MBs) are the most common malignant paediatric brain tumours. Current treatment paradigms centre around a combination of surgery, craniospinal radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. However, the long-term sequelae of these therapies are devastating for the patient and include developmental, neurological, neuroendocrine, and psychosocial deficits. This underscores the fact that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to treating this disease is not valid. Instead, a more personalized approach is necessary to select the most appropriate chemotherapy drug for a particular paediatric patient to reduce the unwanted side-effects of inefficient therapy.

The research group of Dr Brona Murphy, Centre for Systems Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, is actively engaged in utilising systems medicine approaches to personalise the treatment of brain tumours. In this fully funded three-year project, the PhD candidate will utilise our data integration and statistical model [1], to deliver a personalised treatment plan for MB paediatric patients. They will examine the response of tumours to both current and targeted novel co-treatment options and determine how accurately our model can predict such outcomes. This project aims to set an example for how innovative systems-level strategies can be exploited to address urgent clinical needs for developing predictive assays for existing drugs and new drug combinations. 

The successful candidate will will need to be skilled in both experimental and computational techniques, and be able to confidently navigate in a collaborative research environment. The research will primarily be conducted in the Centre for Systems Medicine laboratories in the RCSI campus on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin city centre.

1. Birgit C. Weyhenmeyer, Janis Noonan, et al., Markus Rehm, Brona M. Murphy (2016). Predicting the cell death responsiveness and sensitization of glioma cells to TRAIL and temozolomide. Oncotarget Sep 20;7(38):61295-61311. 

  • Department: Physiology and Medical Physics
  • Tenure: Three years
  • Salary: Stipend of €18,000/year (plus fees) for three years


The successful candidate should be able to demonstrate the following:


  • An Honours Bachelor degree (grade 2.1 or above) in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Computational Biology or a related discipline
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Strong self-motivation and organisational skills
  • Ability to work on one’s own initiative as well as in a multidisciplinary, team environment
  • Willingness to undertake training and career development
  • English language requirements (for non-native English speakers) is an IELTS (academic) score of 6.5 or above.


  • Previous related research experience will be a distinct advantage.
  • Programming skills (MATLAB)

Application process

Please apply with an up-to-date CV, a 500-word statement outlining your interest in and suitability for the position, and contact details of two referees to

  • Application deadline: 5pm on Thursday, 30 November 2017
  • Interview date: early December 2017
  • Start date: January 2018

Mentors Dr Brona Murphy