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Bobby White


DPhil Student

Focus: the tumour microenvironment in cancer evolution

I am fascinated by how chemical and physical forces are translated into longer-term changes in cell behaviour. Such cellular regulation is integral to cancer biology, and disentangling the underlying mechanisms yields actionable targets for clinical oncology. This is why I study Cancer Science.

Cancer growth and metastasis require adequate metabolism to power the relevant biological processes. Indeed, the metabolic profile of a cancer correlates with its prognosis. Acidity and diffusion-limited oxygen availability are signatures of the solid tumour microenvironment, yet limit metabolism in most human cells. In the Swietach Group, we propose that subpopulations of cells within a cancer are resilient to these adverse microenvironmental conditions and thus exhibit a survival advantage. In turn, aggressive cancer cell behaviours, which require an adequate metabolic rate, are selected for during the somatic evolution of a tumour. I investigate this hypothesis by manipulating the interplay between acidity, oxygen and metabolism using in vitro and in vivo models of colorectal cancer. I aim to define factors that can curtail selection pressures for metabolically resilient and aggressive cancer behaviours, offering interventions to disrupt cancer growth in patients. My research is funded by a Cancer Research UK studentship.

I joined the University of Oxford in 2017 to study Medicine. In 2019, I intercalated a BA in Medical Sciences, achieving First Class Honours and the Andrew Hopley Memorial Prize for Excellence in Medicine. During my BA, I undertook my Final Honours School research with the Swietach Group, investigating acid-regulated signalling in cell growth. I am now further intercalating this DPhil with the Swietach Group into my Medical degree.