Cancer Sciences MSc

This Masters in Cancer Sciences will prepare you for a career in cancer science, whether you aim to pursue a PhD or further medical studies, or seek a career in the health services sector, in the life sciences, biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries. Our programme takes a “bench to bedside” approach, enabling graduates to work within a multidisciplinary environment of world-leading scientists and cancer-specialists to address the latest challenges in cancer research.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • University of Glasgow is rated in the UK top five and best in Scotland for Cancer Studies. You will be taught by a multidisciplinary team of world leading cancer scientists and clinicians within the Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre.
  • This MSc in Cancer Science programme is unique in the UK as it delivers integrated teaching in molecular biology, pathology and clinical service.
  • The Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre brings together scientists and clinicians from research centres, universities and hospitals around Glasgow to deliver the very best in cancer research, drug discovery and patient care. The Centre’s world leading teams have made major advances in the understanding and treatment of many cancers. For more information, please visit: http://www.wecancentre.org/
  • In the first semester, each week is focused around one of the new Hallmarks of Cancer, with the focus on the molecular/cellular biology of this hallmark. A tutorial session will enable you to discuss and integrate your learning from the week. This will enable you to understand how research into the fundamental principles of cancer cell biology can translate to advances in cancer treatment.
  • The aim of this MSc in Cancer Science is to train cancer researchers who can break down the barriers that currently prevent discoveries at the bench from being translated into treatments at the bedside. By understanding the science, methodology and terminology used by scientists and clinicians from different disciplines, you will learn to communicate effectively in a multidisciplinary environment, critically evaluate a wide range of scientific data and research strategies and learn how to make a significant contribution to cancer research.

Programme structure

Semester 1: Hallmarks of Cancer

This 13 week core course aims to:

  • provide you with a critical understanding of the molecular and cellular events that drive cancer development and progression
  • demonstrate how an understanding of these events underpins current and future approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • integrate the teaching of molecular biology, cell biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer
  • describe how all these disciplines communicate and work together in the fight against cancer
  • provide you with theoretical training in fundamental molecular and cell biology techniques used in cancer research

One week of practical training is provided at the start of the course. This course is assessed through a lab notebook, group assessment, critical essay and an exam that focuses on data analysis and interpretation.

Semester 2

In the second semester, you can choose from a range of optional courses, before taking the core course “Designing a Research Project”.

Drug Discovery

In this 3 week optional course you will learn:

  • about the stages of pre-clinical drug discovery, including target identification and validation, assay development, identification, validation and optimisation of a lead compound
  • how to critically evaluate literature on current methods, techniques, and strategies used for drug discovery, and to appraise their  advantages and disadvantages for targeting a specific disease

Drug Development and Clinical trials

In this 3 week optional course you will learn:

  • about the key issues involved in developing a candidate drug from late stage pre-clinical drug discovery through to clinical implementation
  • about the clinical components of target validation and disease linkage, the use of pharmacodynamic biomarkers in early clinical trials and the development of companion diagnostics to enable personalized medicine strategies
  • how early stage clinical trials are designed to achieve key milestones in early drug development including proof of mechanism, proof of principal and proof of concept
  • how statistical, clinical and regulatory considerations influence study design

Viruses and Cancer

The aim of this 3 week optional course is:

  • to provide you with a critical understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which viruses contribute to oncogenesis, knowledge about how viral infections can be diagnosed, treated and prevented and insights into strategies used in cancer research

Diagnostic technologies and devices

In this 5 week optional course you will:

  • will appraise the diverse modern technologies available for diagnosis of infectious and non-transmissible diseases
  • work in small groups to critically research the limitations of current diagnostics for a selected disease, devise a new diagnostic device or test that would overcome these limitations, and present your findings

Technology transfer and commercialisation of bioscience research

In this 3 week optional course you will:

  • evaluate the technology transfer of bioscience research and the commercialisation of research ideas.
  • working in small groups, you will design and evaluate a market research strategy and business plan for a small company planning to commercialise a recent bioscience discovery

Current trends and challenges in biomedical research and health

In this 3 week optional course you will:

  • have the opportunity to research a current topical issue or challenge of your choice in biomedical research or health. You will select an area of recent global or national importance, and working in groups, will plan and perform research of the scientific background of the issue, analysing and synthesising the available information to draw conclusions, and/or develop possible solutions

Frontiers in Cancer Sciences

This 5 week optional course aims to:

  • provide you with a critical understanding of current successes and challenges in cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment
  • demonstrate how translational research can be used to address critical unmet clinical needs
  • explain the principles and challenges of therapy resistance, residual disease, dormancy and relapse after treatment, biomarkers and ‘omics’ approaches
  • show how recent success stories can help in the development of new treatments for other cancers
  • explain the need for clinically relevant in vitro and in vivo tumour models, for bio-repositories, and for cross-discipline working

Omic technologies for the biomedical sciences: from genomics to metabolomics

In this 5 week optional course you will:

  • develop a critical understanding of a range of modern “omics” technologies and applications
  • learn about genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic techniques, and the analytical approaches that can be employed to examine the data output from these approaches
  • have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate your understanding and proficiency through the critical analysis of real data sets

Designing a research project: biomedical research methodology

In this 6 week core course you will:

  • develop a critical understanding of research methodology as applied to modern biomedical research
  • have the opportunity to appraise the different types of scientific research, and to examine critically the different steps within a research project
  • develop your understanding and competence through the development of the study design for your research project, including hypothesis setting, literature review and project work plans

Semester 3

Bioscience Research Project

In this 14 week core course you will:

  • have an opportunity to perform a piece of original research to investigate a hypothesis or research questions within the area of cancer research. The project may be “wet” or “dry”, depending what projects are available
  • develop practical and/or technical skills, analyse data critically and draw conclusions, and suggest avenues for future research to expand your research findings

 

Note: students must have a minimum of grade C in semesters 1 and 2 in order to proceed to the research project. 

Programme aims

We will lead you through the molecular and cellular hallmarks of cancer biology, including genetic instability, cancer growth and invasion, tumour-stroma interactions, immune response to cancer, cancer metabolism, and cancer stem cells, and explain how this knowledge is being used in our fight against cancer.

You will experience how to plan and write a project proposal and report, and how to research, evaluate, and critically discuss scientific data and present these to a wider audience. A 14-week long research project will finally allow you to gain in-depth knowledge in a cancer-related area of your interest. This programme will therefore give you an excellent foundation for your future career in cancer science.

We will lead you through the molecular and cellular hallmarks of cancer biology and metastasis formation, including genetic instability, cancer growth and invasion, tumour-stroma interactions, immune response to cancer, cancer metabolism, and cancer stem cells, and explain how this knowledge is being used in our fight against cancer in our clinics by providing a personalised cancer treatment. The programme will allow you to specialize either on the molecular aspects of cancer science, including genome wide data analysis for the characterization and classification of cancers, or learn about cutting edge translational cancer research, and introduce you to drug discovery pipelines and clinical trials.

You will experience how to plan and write a project proposal and report, and how to research, evaluate, and critically discuss scientific data and present these to a wider audience. A 14-week long research project will finally allow you to gain in-depth knowledge in a cancer-related area of your interest. This programme will therefore give you an excellent foundation for your future career in cancer science.

 

Research projects

Here is a list of masters-level research projects offered by the Institute of Cancer Sciences recently: 

  • The role of Hypoxia factor 1 alpha in the metastatic spread of cancer
  • Rapid genetic engineering of human somatic cells
  • Characterising the Interaction between Human Papillomavirus E2 Proteins and the Cellular Protein TopBP1
  • The role of chromatin proteins in the repair of DNA damage
  • The effect of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Cell cycle and DNA damage response in Glioblastoma cells
  • The Epigenetic Signature of Glioblastoma Stem Cells
  • The role of FOXO3a in tyrosine kinase inhibitor induced autophagy
  • Investigating synergism of Mcl-1 inhibition with first-line therapies for chronic leukaemias
  • The Interferon Response in Stem Cell Homeostasis
  • Study of Nuclear Changes in Ras-induced Senescence
  • Defining the role of CDK inhibitors in NF-kB signalling in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
  • Assessment of the polo-like kinases (PLKs) in myeloid leukaemia cell lines
  • Serpins as novel targets in myeloid malignancies
  • Characterisation of PRC2 function in patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia
  • Can cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors suppress antigen-mediated survival signalling in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia cells?
  • Use of glutathione depletion to sensitise malignant cells to chemo- and radio-therapy
  • Use of novel inhibitors to sensitise malignant cells to radiotherapy
  • Investigation of the genotoxic effects of extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields
  • Investigation of the potential radiosensitising effect of 2-deoxyglucose in spheroids derived from the LNCaP prostate cancer cell line.

The projects offered by individual labs are based on their latest research, so the topics of the projects will change each year. Students will be asked to rank their favourite projects, but we cannot guarantee that students will get their preferred choice. Some projects may be based in the lab, others may primarily involve data analysis.

What our students say

Here are some thoughts from previous masters students: 

Carla Guenther (2013-14)

“What does it take to excel in cancer research?

The first time I asked myself this question was when I read through the description of a research project on Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) offered by Dr. David Vetrie and Dr. Mary Scott. The aim of the project is to target the PRC2 complex in patients with CML in order to specifically kill cancer cells that would otherwise cause relapse after treatment with currently used drugs. With this aim the project represents the cutting edge of cancer research and I was more than thrilled when I was offered the opportunity to contribute to this.

Photograph of MSc Cancer student 2013-14

But although I had worked for the tissue engineering research group of Professor C. Werner for three years, I was worried I might have a hard time working in a completely different research area. Especially since most of the methods I would use -cloning, qPCR, westernblotting, FACS, tissue culture, lentiviral transfection- were things I had never done before. However, it quickly became obvious, that there was no reason to worry. In the friendly research lab at the Paul O’Gorman there is always someone to help out with competent advice or patience while demonstrating a new method. Soon I was able to work rather independently, while I would always have the opportunity to discuss results and further steps with my supervisors. As an experienced Research Associate and valued member of Professor Holoyake’s research group especially Dr Mary Scott was always able to help me with practical problems. Therefore I found my work both challenging and achievable.
However of course I also experienced setbacks, both in my research and my personal life. In this regard I found it comforting and reassuring to always be able to talk to my supervisors about problems. Both were very understanding and offered help and a sympathetic ear and I didn’t fear to mess up my work while grieving over the loss of a dear family member. Additionally I repeatedly presented my results, which were viewed with constructive criticism and praise. So I always felt like I made an appreciated and valuable contribution.”

As a conclusion I think it takes motivation, persistence and ambition to excel in cancer research and in a brilliant research group like this, one might do just that.

Evgenia Sarrou (2013-14)

“Tribbles are a diverse family of kinase-like proteins and have been characterized as important regulators of signal processing systems. Trib2 is expressed throughout haematopoietic development whereas dysregulated expression of Trib2 can lead to acute leukaemia (AML). It has been recently shown that Trib2 acts as an oncogene by down-regulating CCAAT enhancer-binding protein a (C/EBPalpha) resulting in acute myeloid leukaemia.

The aim of my current project in Dr. Karen Keeshan’s lab at the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre is to determine the requirement for Trib2 in oncogene specific-driven AML. To investigate this, a broad range of techniques were used. I have performed primary murine bone marrow cell isolations and stem cell enrichments using MACS bead purifications and FACS sorting. I carried out retroviral transduction of the haematopoietic cells to express the oncogene of interest. Following transduction, I performed colony forming cell assays that measures the self-renewal and differentiation potential of the haematopoietic stem cells. Using flow cytometry the differentiation status of the cells was assessed by cell surface marker expression measurements. To determine changes in gene expression, I have isolated RNA from freshly transduced bone marrow cells, cDNA synthesized and qRT-PCR was performed to quantify mRNA levels.

During my project I worked closely with a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student who helped demonstrate the techniques and assisted me with the analysis of the results, in addition to the guidance and input offered by Dr. Keeshan. I also took part in weekly lab meeting presentations where I was able to discuss my results with the lab, set specific targets and review progress.
It is a very vibrant environment that offers a highly focused and disciplined approach to research while providing a platform of constant exchange of ideas through frequent and guided interaction among the members of the research group and Dr. Keeshan. Despite being the junior researcher of an established group I was made to feel welcomed and valued straight away with Dr Keeshan being always approachable for advice. My overall experience in Dr. Keeshan’s lab has motivated me to further my knowledge in the field of blood cancer.”

Jiasi Zhang (2013-14)

“I am a postgraduate student in Biomedical sciences(MRes) in University of Glasgow. I did my project in breast cancer lab for almost 18 weeks. Under the guidance of my supervisor Dr.Stein, I learned how to do 3D cell culture, migration assays and immunofluorescence which I have not done before. People here are quite nice, the postdoctoral research assistant and the PhD student in the lab always help me with my experiments. During my research in the lab, I learned not only useful techniques, but also how to analyse the data. I will miss the days working in the lab, and am very happy to recommend this lab to you. You would benefit a lot from the experience, if you have a chance to work here.”

Shivam Mishra (2008-9)
Currently a Ph.D Student at A-STAR/NUS, Singapore

“Since I have always been interested in translational research that brings bench to bedside I decided to undertake a Masters programme in Molecular Medicine at the University of Glasgow that is focusing on the better understanding of molecular basis of human diseases like cancer. In a one-year span, I got to work on two* short but extensive research projects ranging from molecular haemopoiesis group to gene regulation. My research work in the latter project was part of a publication; I also got to attend a couple of international research conferences. These research experiences have made me become an independent researcher who can flexibly work within a research group and has developed me as a critical thinker with a high resilience who can design and analyse sophisticated experimental procedures. The skills learnt through this programme is helping me immensely in my current PhD program in a competitive environment in Singapore.”

Nidhi Nair (2008-9)
Currently a PhD student at the MRC unit, University of Dundee

“An MRes in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Glasgow really helped bridge the gap between my education in India and doing a PhD in UK. In contrast to reading outdated books back home, I came to realise the importance of not only keeping up to date with your research field through reading articles but also developing a critical view of any research you come across. This has really helped me through my PhD in planning my experiments and making sure to keep the right controls and analyse the results in an unbiased manner. Also, having undertaken two* research projects during the latter part of my studies helped me get a good foundation in research techniques as well as good lab practices. Moving away from home to research abroad is a daunting task but I feel that a masters course made me feel more at ease when starting on a research path in academia."

Carolyn Low (2007-8)‌
Completed a PhD at the University of Glasgow

 MSc Cancer student 2013-14

‌For me, taking part in the Molecular Medicine MRes course was an invaluable experience. I was interested in a career in scientific research but unsure if a PhD was for me. I was also lacking confidence in my practical abilities in the lab. However, almost immediately after starting this course I felt myself becoming increasingly confident in both the lab environment and my own practical ability. The opportunity to complete two projects in different labs is, in my opinion, one of the greatest strengths of this course as it allows students to gain experience of another working environment and many more experimental techniques than would be possible in a single project masters.

 

Milica Vukovic, Canada (2007-8)
Completed a PhD at the University of Glasgow

After completing my honours degree in Toronto, I sought out an international Masters program from a leading UK university that would allow me to specialize in Cancer Research. The MRes in Molecular Medicine here at the University of Glasgow seemed to offer just this, but I soon realised that it offered far more than I had ever expected. I was immediately impressed with the high quality of the program, reputable faculty and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. I was given the opportunity to become a vital part of two research teams where I conducted my own projects led by the group’s leader and supervised by post-doctoral fellows.

More than anything, it was the supervisors’ excitement about their relative fields that led me to desire to build an expanding knowledge and understanding of cancer, and hopefully help identify future treatments of a disease that affects so many.

* Note that the new MSc will only have one research project, not two.

 

Entry requirements

for entry in 2016

A very good degree in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Medicine or other relevant biological/biomedical sciences. Alternative qualifications will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.

An IELTS score of at least 6.5 with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component (or equivalent qualification) is required for students who do not have English as their first language.

When applying, please include a CV and personal statement that explains how your previous studies provide a suitable background for this programme.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 20
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:

FAQs

What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's English for Academic Study Unit offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk

 

For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office: pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2016-17

MSc

Home and EU
Full time fee£6950
International
Full time fee£18900

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni applying to the MSc. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Deposits

The University requires a deposit of £1000 to be paid by International (beyond the EU) applicants in receipt of an offer to this programme.

Funding opportunities

Career prospects

The knowledge and transferable skills developed in this programme will be suitable for those contemplating a PhD or further medical studies; those wishing to work in the health services sector; and those interested in working in the life sciences, biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries, including contract research organisations (CROs). This programme is designed for students with undergraduate degrees in the life sciences, scientists working in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and clinicians and other healthcare professionals. 

How to apply

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)
  • A two-page personal statement highlighting:
    • How your academic career to-date makes this programme a suitable next step
    • Why you want to study this programme
    • How you think this programme will help you in your future career development

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to pgadmissions@glasgow.ac.uk. See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
Glasgow
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 22 July 2016 
  • UK and EU applications: 26 August 2016

Classes start September 2016 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

The Online Application and Applicant Self-Service will be unavailable from 1800 (BST) on Friday, 24 June until 0800 (BST) on Monday, 27 June to allow for essential maintenance.