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MSc Cancer

Samuel Fund scholarships will be available for this programme. Awards of £5,000 and £25,000 will be open to application for MSc cancer students starting in September 2020.

The Cancer MSc reflects the depth and breadth of research interests, from basic science to translational medicine, within the UCL Cancer Institute. The programme, taught by research scientists and academic clinicians, provides 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 experiences

Nadia Bonnin explains more about her experience studying the Cancer MSc programme, including the extended project:

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Student Christian Pellegrino talks about why he chose MSc Cancer: 

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Student Georgia Constaninou on her experience studying MSc Cancer at UCL: 

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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 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.


Programme modules

Compulsory modules:

Basic Biology and Cancer Genetics

The first part of this module introduces you to basic cancer biology explaining the cellular changes occurring during cancer development, the key genes, proteins and signalling pathways that regulate oncogenesis, and the carcinogenic mechanisms leading to cancer-associated mutations.

The second part of this module teaches you about different resources for cancer research, including various animal model systems used in the investigation of cancer, online tools and databases for analysis of cancer genomics, and basic experimental techniques used in the analysis of cancer.

Cancer Therapeutics

This module helps you to understand the mechanisms of different cancer therapies, and how these relate to the underlying cancer biology. You will begin the module with workshops to develop your understanding of evidence based medicine and your skills for critical evaluation of clinical trials. 

You will then learn about the mechanisms and application of standard therapies (such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery), and of targeted therapies representing personalised cancer medicine, and the evidence supporting these. You will review the hallmarks of cancer and will investigate how different therapies have been designed to target these hallmark features of cancer cells.

Specialist modules:

Behavioural Science and Cancer

This module will provide you with an introduction to behavioural and psychosocial aspects of cancer care and prevention. Topics covered will include: public awareness and understanding of cancer, cancer prevention through lifestyle change and cancer screening, and psychological issues related to cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival. You will be introduced to psychological theories related to health behaviour change, information processing and illness representations. Applied behavioural examples will illustrate the issues.

Biomarkers in Cancer

This module helps you to understand the role of biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer, and for the prediction and monitoring of treatment response. You will explore specific examples of cancer biomarkers and their applications, including tumour expressed and secreted markers, circulating tumour cells or cell-free nucleic acids. You will gain an awareness of the essential clinical importance of effective biomarkers to inform precision (personalised) cancer medicine.

Cancer Clinical Trials

This module will provide you with knowledge of the development pathway for new cancer interventions, from first-in-man studies to licensed product, through to clinical practice. You will learn about the different phases of cancer clinical trials and the main design and practical issues associated with conducting, interpreting and reporting cancer trials. You will receive grounding in how these complex and closely regulated studies are performed by researchers active in, and at the forefront of, the field, and you will gain an appreciation of how to interpret clinical trial data and recognise their limitations. You will also understand some of the regulatory policies and processes required to ensure the ethical nature, legal compliance and quality assurance of clinical trials. 

Haematological Malignancies and Gene Therapy

This module helps you understand the biology underlying cancers of blood cells / bone marrow (i.e. leukaemias, lymphomas and myelomas), and how gene therapy can be used to modify immune cells for cancer immunotherapy. The first part of the module examines the pathophysiology and diagnosis of haematological malignancies. You will learn about the importance of cytogenetic analysis and chromosome rearrangements in these tumours, and the relationship between genotype and clinical behaviour of tumours. You will also understand the therapeutic principles of treatment of haematological malignancies (e.g. cytotoxics, monoclonal antibodies, kinase inhibitors or stem cell transplantation).

The second part of the module will explore cancer immunotherapy as an approach to treat haematological malignancies. You will learn the principles of gene therapy, understanding how factors such as vector type, transfection method and target cell influence this approach. You will examine the potential of targeting immune response as a cancer therapy, in particular focussing on Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell development. You will also consider the side effects and various off-tumour effects of these therapies, and strategies for improving the safety of cancer immunotherapy approaches.

Dissertation/report:
Allows you to take your theoretical knowledge and practical skills from other modules throughout the entire course and to apply these to your own individual research question. You will be expected to employ the scientific method to address this question through data collection and/or analysis in a laboratory, bioinformatics or clinical setting as appropriate, and complete a 10,000-12,000 word dissertation and an oral report presentation. 


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 deadline: 24 July 2020 for the 2020-21 academic year (September 2020 start). See online prospectus entry for MSc Cancer.

All applications should be submitted directly to UCL admissions

View prospectus application


Fees and Funding 

The Samuel Fund is offering funding for five £5,000 scholarships for Home/EU fee payers and one £25,000 scholarship for an overseas fee payer to study for the 2020/21 academic year of the MSc Cancer Programme at UCL. The award amount will be deducted from the cost of tuition fees. Students with an offer to study the MSc Cancer programme will be eligible to apply. Application will open soon. For further information, contact Ollie Bergstein ci.pgeducation@ucl.ac.uk

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website

Tuition fees:

Home/EU: £15,050 (2020/21) full-time
Overseas: £29,260 (2020/21) full-time

UCL tuition fees information

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

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