Improving photoacoustic imaging for CAR T-cell cancer therapy

This EPSRC iCase funded project will develop the use of photoacoustic imaging for determining the biodistribution of the CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) cells in vivo to assist the optimisation of the emerging treatment technique CAR  T-cell cancer therapy.

Start date
1 January 2023
4 years
Application deadline
Funding source
Funding information
  • Stipend £19,000 pa; covered tuition fees for all years
  • £5,595 pa for training and consumables
  • Open to UK or international candidates


This EPSRC iCase funded project builds on an existing collaboration between the University of Surrey (UoS), the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), to develop photoacoustic imaging to assist the optimisation of CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell cancer therapy. This is an emerging treatment technique, approved for patients in 2018 and expected to enable major advancements in personalised cancer medicine. It involves removal of the patient’s T cells from the blood, their genetic modification, and re-infusion of the cells back into the patient.

The project will develop the use of photoacoustic imaging for determining the biodistribution of the CAR-T cells in vivo. Photoacoustic imaging is an important biomedical imaging method which employs an ultrasound scanner in combination with a pulsed laser to create high-resolution 3D images of optical absorption spectra of molecules in tissues and cells. The project objectives involve the development of methodologies, including the application of machine and deep learning, to use combinations of spectral and temporal photoacoustic signatures to recognise CAR T cells against background tissue and to quantify CAR-T cell numbers. Methods will be validated against photoacoustic microscopy of cells in tissue-mimicking phantoms and in vivo after tumour or tissue sectioning. Opportunities will be available, given time and interest, to explore dynamic quantification of CAR-T cell numbers as they penetrate tumours.

The student will be based at the University of Surrey, and some time may be spent at the ICR for data acquisition using a commercial photoacoustic imager and at the NPL ( using a  photoacoustic microscope. Training on imaging techniques and sample preparation will be provided.

Project supervisors

Collaboration on photoacoustic imaging and biology possible with Dr Emma Harris ( and  Dr. Astero Klampatsa (

Start dates

A later start date of April 2023 is possible.

About the Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing

The Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) is a leading UK research centre in audio-visual signal processing, computer vision and machine learning. We bring together a unique combination of cutting-edge sound and vision expertise with more than 170 researchers, and we’ve currently attracted more than £30million in research grants. Our aim is to advance machine perception by combining artificial intelligence and multi-modal sensing to enable machines to see, hear and understand the world around them. Our Centre has an outstanding track record of innovative research leading to technology transfer and exploitation in biometrics, creative industries (film, TV, games, virtual and augmented reality), mobile communication, healthcare, robotics, autonomous vehicles and consumer electronics.

Eligibility criteria

All applicants should have (or expect to obtain) a first-class degree in a numerate discipline (mathematics, science or engineering) or MSc with Distinction (or 70% average) and a strong interest in pursuing research in this field. Additional experience which is relevant to the area of research is also advantageous, especially a demonstrated capability in machine/deep learning or interest in convergence research that spans the physical and engineering sciences.

UK or international candidates may apply.

English language requirements

International applicants: IELTS 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with no sub-test of less than 6.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Vision, Speech and Signal Processing programme page.

In place of a research proposal you should upload a document stating the title of the project that you wish to apply for and the name of the relevant supervisor.

Application deadline

Contact details

Lucia Florescu
15 BA 00
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686045

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