MSc Cancer Research & Precision Oncology

This Masters in MSc Cancer Research & Precision Oncology will prepare students for a career in cancer science, whether they 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.


Futher information on the programme is available here


What will I learn during this MSc in Cancer Research & Precision Oncology? 

  • You will get firm grounding in cancer biology to equip you for a career in the academic or commercial cancer science sector 
  • You will learn about the cellular and molecular biology of cancer, and about the techniques used to carry out cancer research 
  • You  will learn about the stages involved in managing a cancer patient in the clinic, including diagnosis, prognosis and standard treatments 
  • You will learn how to apply your knowledge of molecular and cellular biology to understanding the scientific basis for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment 
  • You will learn how to design, plan and execute a research project 
  • You will develop your skills in communicating and working with peers, scientists and cancer clinicians from different disciplines  

What skills will I learn?

During this programme, you will develop a range of scientific and research skills that will equip you for a future career in science. These skills include: 

  • Analysing, critically evaluating and interpreting scientific data;
  • Designing a research plan to address a specific question in the field of Cancer Sciences;
  • Critically discussing the issues involved in planning and undertaking clinical and translational cancer research, including statistical, ethical and sampling considerations;
  • Developing troubleshooting skills to address technical scientific and analytical problems;
  • Taking responsibility for the research project and associated resources 

In addition to scientific skills, you will also learn transferable skills that will be important for a wide variety of career pathways. These include: 

•    Working and communicating effectively with groups of peers, scientists and cancer clinicians from different disciplines
•    Critically reflecting on individual and group performance
•    Giving effective oral presentations
•    Producing effective written communication in a variety of formats 

How will I be taught?

  • Knowledge of the subject will be achieved through lectures (typically 2-3 per week), and tutorials (typically 1 per week), accompanied by directed private study of primary research publications and clinical data 
  • Laboratory research skills will be taught through a week-long practical laboratory class in semester 1, supported by lectures and tutorials on methodology, and through the individual, closely-supervised, research project 
  • Core research skills such as experimental design, planning of research work, management and analysis of data sets, and research ethics will be developed during the course on Research design (semester 2) and the independent research project 

How will my progress be assessed?

A variety of summative (graded) and formative (feedback only  - not graded) assessment methods will be used, including: a written laboratory notebook, oral and poster presentations, a literature review, a project proposal and report, and an examination

Programme structure

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, treatment and prevention
  • 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 and practical training in fundamental molecular and cell biology techniques used in cancer research

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, efficacy testing and pharmacokinetic/dynamic (PKPD) profiles
  • 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.