Investigating and modifying the physiological processes associated with premature frailty and physical dysfunction in adults with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia

A 3.5 year, fully funded studentship is offered in our laboratory. This specific project in Clinical Exercise Immunology looks at understanding the exercise and diet-induced mechanisms that modulate metabolic signatures of malignant cells and normal immune cells in CLL.

Start date

1 July 2022


4 years

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey

Funding information

Full UK tuition fees covered for 4 years. UKRI-aligned stipend (£15,609 pa for 2021-22) and a research budget.


This studentship aims to understand and modify the physiological processes that are associated with the risk of frailty in older adults with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). Using a series of exercise and diet-based interventions, we will examine the primary drivers of physiological dysfunction and generate data to improve lifestyle prescriptions in adults with CLL.

CLL is the most prevalent leukaemia, affecting 1:8 adults >70 years old. A poorly understood but clinically significant complication of CLL is an elevated incidence of physical dysfunction and risk of frailty. Central to this is a progressive age- and tumour-associated loss of normal physical functions. With >4,000 new cases and 1,000 deaths/year in England, adults with CLL have an increased mortality risk from cardiovascular disease, a 20-30% increased risk of secondary malignancies, while microbial and viral infections are the leading cause of hospitalization and death. Although we understand the tumorigenic mechanisms of CLL relatively well, the mechanisms for physical declines remain unknown. Our recent data suggest a cellular and systemic metabolic dysfunction that redirects energy substrates from healthy tissues/organs to tumour progression.

The successful candidate will undertake a PhD based in the School of Biosciences and Medicine under Dr David Bartlett and other academics within the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, healthcare workers from the Royal Surrey Hospital and charity group members including CLL Support.

The successful candidate will be able to explore the physiological phenotype of people with CLL before, during and following exercise and diet-based interventions. Students will use technologies such as near-infrared spectroscopy, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, peripheral quantitative computed tomography, isokinetic/isometric dynamometry, non-invasive cardiac output assessment, non-invasive skeletal muscle glycogen assessment, and systemic and tissue-specific metabolic utilization.

Related links

Webinar discussing exercise and nutrition for CLL patients


  1. Sitlinger A, Deal MA, Garcia E, Thompson DK, Stewart T, MacDonald GA, Devos N, Corcoran D, Staats JS, Enzor J, Weinhold KJ, Brander DM, Weinberg JB, Bartlett DB. Physiological Fitness and the Pathophysiology of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). Cells. 2021;10(5):1165. PMID: doi:10.3390/cells10051165.
  2. MacDonald G, Sitlinger A, Deal MA, Hanson ED, Ferraro S, Pieper CF, Weinberg JB, Brander DM, Bartlett DB. A Pilot Study of High-Intensity Interval Training in Older Adults with Treatment Naïve Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. Scientific Reports. 2021. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-02352-6.
  3. Sitlinger A, Brander DM, Bartlett DB. Impact of exercise on the immune system and outcomes in hematologic malignancies. Blood Advances. 2020;4(8):1801-11.
  4. Sitlinger A, Thompson DP, Deal MA, Garcia E, Stewart T, Guadalupe E, Weinberg JB, Bartlett DB, Brander DM. Exercise and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) - Relationships Among Physical Activity, Fitness, & Inflammation, and Their Impacts on CLL Patients. Blood. 2018;132:5540-. doi: 10.1182/blood-2018-99-117736.

Eligibility criteria

This studentship is for UK, EU and international students. Candidates must have a first or upper second-class honours degree from the UK (or equivalent qualification from international Institutions) in a relevant subject area.

Language requirements

IELTS Academic 6.5 overall with 6.0 in Writing, or equivalent.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Biosciences and Medicine PhD page on the 'Apply' tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

Biosciences and Medicine PhD

Studentship FAQs

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Application deadline

Contact details

David Bartlett


This project will be completed in the Exercise Immunology Group within the Sections of Exercise Science.


Studentships at Surrey

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