PhD Student in Early Detection of Liver Cancer - The Role of Extracellular Matrix Proteins

Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
June 01, 2023
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Position:PhD Student in Early Detection of Liver Cancer - The

Role of Extracellular Matrix Proteins

Department: Systems Biology of Signal Transduction

Code number: 2023-0157

The German Cancer Research Center is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. With more than 3,000 employees, we operate an extensive scientific program in the field of cancer research.

Job description:

Liver cancer with its predominant form hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is expected to rise due to the dramatic increase in obesity, which can result in chronic liver diseases such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD can progress to liver fibrosis/cirrhosis and patients with cirrhosis have an elevated risk to develop HCC. Therefore, means for early detection of cancer-promoting alterations in liver cirrhosis are urgently needed. The aim is to establish biomarker patterns and, in collaboration with theoretical partners, to utilize a mathematical modelling approach for early identification of patients with a high-risk of liver cancer. Since fibrosis and cirrhosis are characterized by major alterations in the composition of the extracellular matrix (ECM), the detection of liver-derived ECM proteins in the plasma as indicators for the remodeling of the ECM in the liver towards a cancer-promoting microenvironment is highly promising.

In our division, we have developed a clinical proteomics pipeline and have started to analyze the ECM in samples of patients with liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. The successful candidate will develop SOPs to ensure effective solubilization of ECM components and of transmembrane ECM receptors from cirrhotic nodules and tumor tissue. The global proteome of the ECM from these tissues will be analyzed to identify relevant changes and select indicator proteins for targeted proteomics. Methods for the reliable detection of ECM derived peptides in the plasma will be designed to uncover signatures that reflect key changes as indicators for disease. An automated data analysis pipeline for a standardized workflow for processing of mass spectrometry data will be developed to facilitate clinical translation.


The successful candidate should have a background (Master's degree) in cell biology, molecular biology or biochemistry and have an interest in mass spectrometry and bioinformatics. Experience with Python and R are of advantage. Furthermore, communication skills and the willingness to work in an interdisciplinary project are key.

We offer:

  • Interesting, versatile workplace
  • International, attractive working environment
  • Campus with modern state-of-the-art infrastructure
  • Access to international research networks
  • Doctoral student payment including social benefits
  • Flexible working hours
  • Comprehensive training and mentoring program through the Helmholtz International Graduate School
  • Important notice:

    The DKFZ is subject to the regulations of the Infection Protection Act (IfSG). As a consequence, only persons who present proof of immunity against measles may work at the DKFZ.

    Earliest Possible Start Date: as soon as possible

    Duration: The position is limited to 3 years with the possibility of prolongation. ​​

    Application Deadline: 01.06.2023


    Prof. Dr. Ursula Klingmüller Phone +49 (0)6221/42-4481

    Please note that we do not accept applications submitted via email.

    The DKFZ is committed to increase the proportion of women in all areas and positions in which women are underrepresented. Qualified female applicants are therefore particularly encouraged to apply.

    Among candidates of equal aptitude and qualifications, a person with disabilities will be given preference.

    To apply for a position please use our online application portal (https: // www.

    We ask for your understanding that we cannot return application documents that are sent to us by post (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Personalabteilung, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120 Heidelberg) and that we do not accept applications submitted via email. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

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