PhD-candidate Department Precision Medicine (GROW) and Molecular Genetics (NUTRIM)

Research / Academic

Immune therapy for the treatment of cancer holds great promise, yet it is also characterized by strong variability in responsiveness between patients. Since appropriate immune responses strongly correlate with metabolic health, we postulate that stimulation of ‘immune fitness’ by modulation of metabolic health using dietary interventions will improve the efficacy of immune therapy in cancer. Using a translational approach, activity and responsiveness of the immune system and metabolic health status will be determined and modulated in relevant preclinical cancer models, applying specific dietary interventions to evaluate their potential to improve the therapeutic efficacy of immune therapy by using checkpoint inhibitors. While the link between nutrition and immunity is well established, within this project we aim to determine, for the first time, the potential of nutritional interventions to stimulate cancer immunotherapy through modulation of metabolic health.

We seek a talented PhD candidate to join our interdisciplinary team. You will be performing translational oncology studies involving in vivo experiments, analysis of metabolic health measurements (including liver enzymes, lipid profiling, oxidative stress levels, expression of genes related to metabolism and fat uptake and storage, tissue and plasma markers for inflammation, humoral and cellular markers of immune fitness, body weight and muscle mass/force measurements.  

In addition, tumor-specific analyses will be performed to evaluate the effect of dietary interventions directed specifically towards the tumor and its micro-environment itself. These analyses include tumor growth follow-up and quantification of tumor micro-environmental, metabolic and immunological parameters. In a next step, you will quantify the therapeutic ratio of immunotherapy upon different nutritional intervention strategies and correlate dietary habits and metabolic profiles in human cohorts to immune fitness profiles.

Under dedicated supervision, you will be responsible to successfully complete your PhD training program, present at (inter)national scientific conferences and report in scientific renowned journals.

The research will be carried out within the research groups of A/Prof. Jan Theys (M-lab, Department of Precision Medicine, GROW Research School) and Prof. R. Sverdlov (Department of Molecular Genetics,  NUTRIM). Throughout this collaboration, expertise in the fields of preclinical research in nutrition, inflammation, and metabolic health is combined with translational research in the fields of oncology and immunotherapy. The candidate will also closely work with scientists from Nutricia Research, a committed partner with expertise and know how on nutrition and metabolism in cancer, immune modulatory nutrients, development of nutritional intervention and analysis of specific biochemical parameters and biomarkers.


• The candidate finished a Master in Biomedical Sciences, Medical Biology, Life Sciences or a related Master
•  The candidate has a strong and enthusiastic motivation for a PhD track in translational public health research 
•  The candidate has affinity with the fields of metabolism, oncology and inflammation
•  The candidate has well-developed general molecular biology skills (RNA/DNA isolation, gene expression, qPCR, immunoblotting,..), experience with cell culture, flow cytometry, staining procedures and microscopy
•  The candidate holds a license to and has experience with work with animals (mouse models)
•  The candidate has excellent writing skills
•  The candidate has an analytical mind-set and an independent work attitude
•  The candidate has the profile of a team player with good communication skills (in English) and a respectful attitude towards colleagues and collaborators

Salary Benefits:

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > Support > UM employees.

We offer a full-time position within Maastricht University at the Department of Precision
Medicine/Molecular genetics , at the faculty of Health, medicine and Life Sciences (FHML).

The salary corresponds to the PhD-student salary scale.

Each year an evaluation will take place.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week


Universiteitssingel 50