UCL Cancer Institute


MSc Cancer

The MSc Cancer programme reflects the depth and breadth of research expertise within the UCL Cancer Institute. The programme, taught by research scientists and academic clinicians, will provide students with an in-depth look at the biology behind the disease processes which lead to cancer.

Students will learn about the approaches taken to predict, detect, monitor, and treat cancer. The programme provides a strong grounding in the cutting edge research methods and techniques used to advance our understanding of this disease and design better treatment strategies.

The programme is designed for those with undergraduate qualifications in the life sciences, scientists, clinicians, and other healthcare professionals including individuals from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The knowledge and transferable skills developed in the course will be suitable for those in an industrial or healthcare setting, as well as those individuals contemplating further PhD or medical studies.

Student Christian Pellegrino talks about why he chose MSc Cancer:



Student Georgia Constantinou talks about her experience studying MSc Cancer:



Degree content and structure

The normal period of registration for a full Master's degree is one year's taught programme for full-time students. Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. The programme consists of two core modules (60 credits), four specialist modules (60 credits) and a research project (60 credits).

  • Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits, full-time nine months) is offered.
  • Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits, full-time 12 weeks) is offered.
PG Cert
(60 credits)
PG Dip 
(120 credits)
(180 credits)
Basic Biology & Cancer GeneticsBasic Biology & Cancer GeneticsBasic Biology & Cancer Genetics
Cancer TherapeuticsCancer TherapeuticsCancer Therapeutics
-Cancer Clinical TrialsCancer Clinical Trials
-Biomarkers in CancerBiomarkers in Cancer
-Heamatological Malignancies & Gene TherapyHeamatological Malignancies & Gene Therapy
-Behavioural Science & CancerBehavioural Science & Cancer



Core modules:

There are two core modules worth 30 credits each. Each module will consist of a written exam (50%) and coursework (50%).

  • Basic Biology and Cancer Genetics
  • Cancer therapeutics

For the two core modules, there will be four assignments in all. Three of the assignments will count towards your mark, one of the pieces is formative i.e. you can use it to gather feedback but it doesn’t count towards your final mark. 

- Formative assessment: eg data mining
- Summative assessments: eg x2 lab practicals and x1 evidence-based medicine review

There will be x2 multiple choice exams in January 

Students will also participate in discussion group activities and journal paper dissection. General skills lectures/tutorials include: academic writing. thesis writing, evidence-based critiques, IP, ethics, strategies for applying for PhD programmes.

Specialist modules:

There are four specialist (optional) modules. Each optional module is worth 15 credits. Each module assessment will consist of a written exam or coursework.

Behavioural Science and Cancer

This module aims to introduce students to public health issues in primary and secondary prevention of cancer. Three main areas will be covered:

Cancer screening and public health

  • Government policy and the public health agenda 
  • Screening participation and informed choice 
  • Early detection of cancer, symptom awareness

Energy balance and public health

  • Aetiology of obesity
  • Energy balance and cancer
  • Diet and physical activity interventions

Smoking and public health

  • Government policy and comprehensive tobacco control 
  • Theories of addiction
  • Smoking cessation interventions

Different approaches to health behaviour change, socio-economic inequality and ethnicity in relation to cancer control will be explored as cross-cutting themes throughout the course.

Cancer Clinical Trials

Aims of the Module

The Aim is to show students how cancer trials are designed, conducted and interpreted. All these aspects are essential to developing new cancer drugs to providing sufficient evidence before they are allowed onto the market and become part of routine clinical practice. You will learn about different types of trials, and the associated ethical and regulatory issues. There will be sessions on specific cancers, and an emphasis on targeted therapies and biomarker endpoints.

Intended Learning Outcomes

  1. Know and the three main types of cancer treatment trials (Phase I, II and III) and what they aim to do
  2. Learn how to interpret published papers on an early and late phase trial
  3. Learn how to select appropriate cancer trial endpoints
  4. Learn about Trial Regulations and the impact they have on trial management
  5. Learn how trials are managed from start to completion
  6. Know how data are evaluated and how these are used for licensing, and post -licensing evaluation.
  7. Learn about key clinical trials and how they have affected clinical practice for several specific cancer types.
Biomarkers in Cancer

The aim of this module is for students to understand the various classes of biomarkers and their function in cancer for: prediction, detection, diagnosis, prognosis, visualisation, tracking and therapeutic strategies. Underpinning this is an understanding of the technologies used to identify, develop and validate biomarkers. This is then related back to how these are used in the lab and/or in the clinic.


  • Introduction to Biomarkers: Classes of biomarkers and how they are used in the clinic
  • Diagnostic Biomarkers: Early detection, tumour subtypes, differential diagnosis (pathology based) for both solid and blood cancers
  • Prognostic and/or Predictive Biomarkers: Features and utility
  • Genetic predisposition, biomarkers and cancer
  • CML/BCR-ABL as a case study
  • The use of ‘omics’ in the discovery and development of biomarkers
  • Pharmacodynamic Biomarkers: measuring treatment response (Gamma H2AX, COMET assay)
  • Imaging Biomarkers
  • Circulating Tumour Cells (CTCs)
  • Cell Free DNA and mRNA
  • Sample handling, bio-banking and biomarker testing within pathology services
  • Biomarker Development Pipeline from The CRUK Drug Development Office
Haematological Malignancies and Gene Therapy

The aim of this module is to explore the links between genetic and epigenetic change and its consequences for the biology of malignant disease. To provide state of the art teaching on the therapy of haematological malignancy and the use of stem cell transplantation.To describe the principles underlying gene therapy and its application for the treatment of cancer

Haematological Malignancies:

  • Haematopoiesis and stem cell biology
  • An overview of haematological malignancies Acute myeloid leukaemia
  • Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
  • Cytogenetics of haematological malignancies Principles of mutation screening
  • Minimum residual disease
  • Molecular mutations in acute myeloid leukaemia Stem cell transplantation

Gene Therapy:

  • Introduction to Gene Therapy and Viral Vectors
  • Genetic Engineering of T-cells as a treatment for Cancer
  • Suicidal gene therapy and oncolytic viruses for hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Using induced pluripotent stem cells as a tool for therapy and disease modelling -Using Gene Therapy to stimulate the endogenous immune system
  • The Use of Suicide Systems to regulate responses of modified T-cells

Laboratory based project or research module:

  • Dissertation

The project/research component of the course is worth 60 credits. Students will undertake a laboratory project, be involved with clinical trials or have a systems biology/informatics project. Students will submit a written dissertation of 10,000 - 12,000 words and have an assessed oral presentation about their research project around the midpoint of the module.

Why study with us? 

University College London is one of Europe’s largest and most productive centres of biomedical science with great strengths in cancer research. Scientists at UCL have an international reputation for leading basic, translational and clinical cancer research. The newly formed UCL Cancer Institute brings together scientists from various disciplines to synergise multidisciplinary research into cancer. Our researchers’ particular areas of expertise include:

  • the biology of leukaemia
  • the infectious causes of cancer
  • the design of drugs that interact with DNA
  • antibody-directed therapies
  • the molecular pathology of cancer
  • epigenetic changes in cancer
  • gene therapy
  • early phase clinical trials
  • national and international clinical trials in solid tumours and blood cancers

In addition we collaborate with scientists in nanotechnology, bioinformatics and computational sciences, developmental biology, stem-cell research, immunity, engineering and medicinal chemistry.

Entry Requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or an appropriate professional qualification or work experience.

How To Apply

Applications should be submitted directly to UCL admissions

Applications will be open until Friday 27 July 2018 for the 2018-19 academic year (September 2018 start) See online prospectus entry for MSc Cancer.

Apply now

Fees and Funding

Home/EU: £14,180 (2018/19) full-time
Overseas: £26,670  (2017/18) full-time

UCL fee schedule

For those students working to organise scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants), early application for admission is strongly encouraged.

The new UK Government Postgraduate Loan Scheme is available to students applying to Master's programmes (eligibility criteria apply)

Please note, MSc Cancer Samuel Fund scholarships for 2018-19 entry have now closed.