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

MSc: Dr Olga Piskareva - Cancer immunology

The aim of this project is to investigate immune response in metastatic microenvironment

Project title

Modelling immune response in metastatic microenvironment

Project description

Neuroblastoma is an aggressive solid paediatric malignancy of the sympathetic nervous system. Despite major advances in available therapies, children with metastatic drug resistant and/or recurrent neuroblastoma have a dismal outlook with 5 year survival rates of less than 20% thus highlighting a vital need for new options for treating neuroblastoma. The aggressive type of neuroblastoma often displays an immunosuppressive microenvironment. Thus, the interaction with the innate and adaptive immune system is critical in neuroblastoma development, control and treatment. The extensive tumour spread to bone and bone marrow pinpoints to the failure of the host immune system to recognise tumour cells and eradicate them. Therefore, it is vital to understand the contribution of immune system to the process which may be further utilised in the development of effective targeted therapies.

Problem to be addressed: In the native tumour tissue, cancer cells are surrounded by a three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment which provides biological and physical support and determines disease initiation, progression, patient prognosis and response to treatment. Many drawbacks exist with the current 2D in vitro and in vivo models for drug development and selection. 3D scaffold-based in vitro cell culturing is a recent advancement in cancer research bridging the gap between conventional 2D culture and in vivo tumours. Recently, we have demonstrated that collagen-based scaffolds provided the necessary support for two neuroblastoma cell lines, chemotherapeutic (cisplatin) sensitive Kelly and resistant KellyCis836 to proliferate, infiltrate, deposit extra-cellular matrix in 3D and respond to stimuli similar to in vivo biological systems. The tested scaffolds represented the common metastatic sites of neuroblastoma – bone marrow and bone. The proposed project is focused on the modelling the interaction between immune and tumour cells using tissue engineering concepts and imaging technologies.

  • Research theme: Cancer, immunology, 3D cell models, tissue engineering 
  • Department: Molecular & Cellular Therapeutics 
  • Studentship Details: Stipend of €18,000/year (plus EU fees) for 1 year 
  • Start Date: May 2019




  • An Honours Bachelor degree (grade 2.1 or above) in cell biology, immunology, tissue engineering, biotechnology or other related disciplines.
  • Good communication skills
  • Strong organisational and administrative 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 candidates who do not speak English as their first language: an IELTS score of 6.5 or above

  • Good knowledge in molecular biology and/or microscopy. 
  • Previous experience in working with cell cultures, PCR, immune fluorescence, imaging or high-throughput screening is a strong merit.  

Application process

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

Closing date for applications is 5pm on Friday, 29 March 2019. Interview date: mid April 2019.


Mentors Dr Olga Piskareva