Ph.D. project: Utilizing metabolism to modulate T cell differentiation in cancer

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
April 05, 2023
Offerd Salary:Negotiation
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Ph.D. project: Utilizing metabolism to modulate T cell differentiation in


(ref. BAP-2023-112)

Last modification : Sunday, March 5, 2023

The laboratory of Metabolic Regulation of Cell Function focuses on unraveling the metabolic cross-talk between immune cells and cancer cells in metastatic cancer. Targeting metabolic pathways central to T cell function has the potential to restore immune balance in metastatic sites and thus combat metastatic spread. Notably, metabolic therapy can synergize with immunotherapy strategies and result in more effective cancer treatments. Our research is both of fundamental and translational nature.


The tumor microenvironment comprises T cells at different stages of differentiation, including stemness, effector, and exhaustion. These different stages are discernible by the expression of surface molecules, anatomic location, and function. When effector cells are repeatedly activated by tumor antigens undergo exhaustion. T cell exhaustion is marked by a decreased effector function and resistance to reactivation. However, pre-clinical studies suggest that T cell exhaustion is reversible. Thus, understanding T cell dysfunctional mechanisms in order to revert the exhausted phenotype is a key approach for anti-tumor immunity. Metabolism has recently been shown to be a critical regulator of T cell differentiation towards effector cells. Therefore, this project will test whether metabolic engineering can be utilized to reawaken exhausted T cells and fuel their effector function in the hostile tumor microenvironment.


- You obtained a Master degree in Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, or Biology.

- You are highly motivated, critical, and creative.

- You are willing to work with animals (mice); previous mice experience is a plus.

- You can work independently but are also a team player.

- You have an excellent knowledge of English, spoken and written.

- Prior metabolomics experience is a plus.


- You can do state-of-the-art, innovative research in an emerging scientific field.

- You will get excellent guidance and supervision.

- Your will be stimulated and supported to integrate your own research ideas and goals within the project.

- You can collaborate with several other national and international research teams, allowing you to broaden your scientific knowledge and network.

- You will get a 1-year Ph.D. fellowship that is conditionally extendable up to 4 years; additional application for a personal Ph.D. fellowship is strongly encouraged.

- The start date of the Ph.D. is flexible and can be decided in joint consultation with your supervisor.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Ilaria Elia, tel.: +32 16 19 42 53, mail: [email protected].

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at [email protected].

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