Investigating Spinal Biomechanics in Multiple Myeloma Patients for the Reduction of Surgical Intervention

University of Sheffield

Institute for In Silico Medicine

Project Description

Multiple myeloma (MM) is the second most common blood cancer and is typically diagnosed through spinal pain and scans showing degenerated bone tissue in the vertebrae. Indeed, 70% of MM patients have a fractured spine with up to 25% leading to spinal cord compression and/or spinal deformity. The spinal cord compression results from mechanical instability and vertebral collapse, and can cause life changing impairment and loss of function.

Recent advances in chemotherapy have been hugely successful, with MM patient survival improving significantly in recent years. However, bone pain and pathological fractures in the spine necessitate surgical interventions, which are not always successful and indeed may lead to further complications which can severely impact patients.

It has recently been observed that external bracing, rather than surgical intervention may allow bone tissue and spine stability to recover, with healthy new bone tissue appearing following bracing. This presents the opportunity to safely treat MM patients without surgery, significantly enhancing patient outcomes whilst also reducing healthcare costs. However, the biomechanics underlying supporting this approach remain uncertain, and recovery for individual patients is difficult to predict.

This aim of this project is to develop patient-specific computational models of MM spinal biomechanics, providing a greater understanding of adaptive bone healing, and allowing development of prognostic models to predict patient outcome.

The project will be take place in the INSIGNEO Institute for In Silico Medicine, a world-leading centre of excellence in human biomechanics. Alongside the research a full training package has been planned that involves the successful applicant interacting with clinicians at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, and experts at the Centre for Predictive In Vitro Models at Queen Mary University of London.

The successful candidate will be expected to publish their work in journals and key conferences (e.g. World Congress of Biomechanics 2022 in Taipei, Taiwan).

Funding Information

The funding covers the cost of tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend at the standard UK research rate (£15,285 in 2020/21). This studentship is only available for UK students.

Eligibility Requirements

1st or 2:1 degree in Engineering, Physics, Applied Mathematics or other Relevant Discipline, with an enthusiasm for computational modelling.

Application Process

To apply, please visit the online application page including your CV and two academic references and indicate on your form that you are replying to this advert.

Closing date: 31st May 2021

Please contact Dr Stefaan Verbruggen for more details: [email protected].

To apply for this PhD, please use the following application link: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/phd/apply/applying

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