PhD position in cancer biology: DNA damage response deficiencies in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma

The University of Bern

About the company:

The Radiation Oncology Research Laboratory (group of PD Dr. Michaela Medová), Inselspital Bern and the University of Bern, Department for BioMedical Research Bern ( studies molecular signaling linked to cancer treatment responses and therapy resistance. This particular project focuses on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) which is the sixth most common cancer and accounts for more than 370,000 cancer-related deaths per year worldwide. Deficiencies in DNA damage response (DDR) pathways enable tumor cells to accumulate genetic alterations and contribute to the aggressive phenotype of HNSCC. Exploiting these deficiencies therapeutically has the potential to increase the efficacy of chemoradiation while decreasing normal tissue toxicities.

Job description:

Your challenge
We are looking for applicants who will perform state-of-the-art computational analyses of genomic profiling data to reveal deficiencies in DDR pathways in cohorts of HNSCC patients from Inselspital, Bern. This will include DDR-related mutational signatures and homologous recombination deficiency scores of HNSCC tissues, including primary, locally advanced, as well as recurrent samples and patient-derived cell lines. Other publicly available cohorts will be analyzed analogously to strengthen our results. The applicant will also use preclinical in vitro HNSCC models to evaluate the efficacy of therapies that target specific DDR molecular players alone and in combination with standard HNSCC therapies including radiotherapy, cisplatin, and cetuximab. In this way, this project will bridge the gap between genomic analysis and the translation of research into clinical testing.

Required qualifications:

We are looking for applications from outstanding candidates who hold an MSc. degree in Biostatistics, Biology, or Biochemistry. Applicants should have strong analytical skills, programming experience, and fluency in English. Practical background in molecular and cellular laboratory techniques (2D and 3D cell cultures, proliferation assays, fluorescence microscopy) serves as an advantage.
The applicants should be able to work independently as well as in a team, have critical thinking, good organizational skills, and a deep interest in research.

Our offer
We offer an attractive and friendly international working environment and an opportunity to actively develop the project with clinical applications. All our students are enrolled in the Graduate School for BioMedical and Cellular Science, University of Bern (, which offers an excellent academic framework (seminars, workshops, journal clubs, networking opportunities, etc.).

Job location

MEM-E826, Murtenstrasse 35, 3008 Bern