Microbiology

Cancer Biology - MSc

2019

The MSc in Cancer Biology is for students who wish to gain an advanced education and training in the biological sciences, within the context of a disease that affects a large proportion of the global population.

2019

Overview

The programme provides training in the modern practical, academic and research skills that are used in academia and industry. Through a combination of lectures, small-group seminars and practical classes, students will apply this training towards the development of new therapies.

The programme culminates with a research project that investigates the molecular and cellular basis of cancer biology or the development of new therapies under the supervision of active cancer research scientists.

New Institute for Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine

Biosciences' research excellence will be further enhanced by a new 'Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine' research facility. The new building will be completed in 2020, and will house additional staff and research facilities.

Kent & Medway Medical School

Kent is moving forward with the Kent & Medway Medical School (KMMS), due to take the first cohort of students in September 2020. The Medical School will be a significant addition to the University, with exciting opportunities for education and research in the School of Biosciences.

Think Kent video series

In this lecture on cancer research, Professor Michelle Garrett discusses how collaboration between industry and academia is changing the face of cancer treatment.


About the School of Biosciences

The School of Biosciences is among the best-funded schools of its kind in the UK, with current support from the BBSRC, NERC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, EU, and industry. It has 36 academic staff, 56 research staff (facility managers, research fellows, postdoctoral researchers and technicians), approximately 100 postgraduate students and 20 key support staff. The school's vibrant atmosphere has expanded to become a flourishing environment to study for postgraduate degrees in a notably  friendly and supportive teaching and research environment.

Research in the School of Biosciences revolves around understanding systems and processes in the living cell. It has a strong molecular focus with leading-edge activities that are synergistic with one another and complementary to the teaching provision. Our expertise in disciplines such as biochemistry, microbiology and biomedical science allows us to exploit technology and develop groundbreaking ideas in the fields of genetics, molecular biology, protein science and biophysics. Fields of enquiry encompass a range of molecular processes from cell division, transcription and translation through to molecular motors, molecular diagnostics and the production of biotherapeutics and bioenergy.

In addition to research degrees, our key research strengths underpin a range of unique and career-focused taught Master’s programmes that address key issues and challenges within the biosciences and pharmaceutical industries and prepare graduates for future employment.

National ratings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Biosciences was ranked 7th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research output.

An impressive 93% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 100% of our research was judged to be of international quality, with 88% of this judged world-leading or internationally excellent. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development research of international excellence.

Course structure

The MSc in Cancer Biology involves studying for 120 credits of taught modules, as indicated below. The taught component takes place during the autumn and spring terms. You will undertake a period of advanced training in research, technical and transferable skills with application in the cancer research area, including an extended practical training in cutting-edge genome editing. This training will be harnessed with a range of modules specialising in advanced studies of oncology. A 60-credit research project takes place over the summer months.

The assessment of the course will involve a mixture of practical classes, innovative continuous assessment to gain maximum transferable and professional skills, and examinations.

In additional to traditional scientific laboratory reports, experience will be gained in a range of scientific writing styles relevant to future employment, such as literature reviews, patent applications, regulatory documents, and patient information suitable for a non-scientific readership

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.

Modules may include Credits

Science has a profound influence on professional practice in the private and public sector. This module considers the ways in which different professions interact with science and scientists, and how this influences the work they do. Their interaction with the public will also be discussed. A series of speakers with diverse professional backgrounds (education, industry, government, policy making, the law, the media) will describe their work, the role of science in the profession, and the way in which science influences their actions and interactions with the public and other professions. This will relate to scientific content in a range of scientific contexts, including cancer, reproductive medicine, biotechnology and healthcare. This will be illustrated by case studies presenting challenges and dilemmas concerning the communication of science in the context of different professions and their target audiences.

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30

The module aims to develop understanding and practical skills in molecular biology, based around interactive workshops, practical sessions and group work . The module will involve practical sessions covering key practical and transferable skills in molecular biology and biotechnology. These will be accompanied by interactive workshops and classes that review the theory of these techniques, and will use case studies to illustrate their impact and importance in both academic and industrial settings. Students will learn skills in experimental design using appropriate case studies that will embed them within the relevant research literature. They will also gain experience of analysis and statistical interpretation of complex experimental data.

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30

This module will introduce the key mechanisms, processes and factors that underpin cancer development, including oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes, growth factor signalling and angiogenesis. It will review the different types of cancer and their global incidence, comparing this with environmental and cultural risk factors. Inherited predisposition will be covered within the context of specific cancers, and the clinical and pathological manifestation of specific tumours will be explored in lectures and in the practical class associated with the module.

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15

This module introduces and develops knowledge in the key area of genome maintenance. Students will learn how loss of genomic integrity leads to enhanced cancer incidence, and how biological processes and the environment contribute to genetic instability. The cellular mechanisms that lead to cancer incidence, together with those that protect cells from the onset of carcinogenic processes will be reviewed. This module will also examine the use of DNA damaging agents in cancer therapies, and incorporate practical experience of investigating the cellular responses to DNA damage.

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15

This module provides students with critical perspectives upon current and emerging cancer therapies, how they are developed, and how they are applied in the clinical setting. The harnessing of scientific knowledge in the treatment of disease requires a complex series of highly regulated studies that must be performed under highly-regulated legal and ethical frameworks. This module reviews the transition from promising cancer therapy to fully realised therapeutic agent, using specific therapies as examples. It will also discuss the emerging potential for personalised medicine based on patient-specific molecular biomarkers.

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15

The module aims to develop understanding and analytical skills in order to fully embed students within the culture of cancer research. Based around seminars and interactive workshops, the initial stages of the module will involve an intensive rotation of seminars covering recent key developments in the field of cancer, delivered by experts, accompanied by critical evaluation and analysis of research articles exploring these research themes. Students will analyse, present and discuss the relevant research literature. They will gain experience in scientific design, literature analysis, scientific communication and the analysis and statistical interpretation of complex experimental data. The later stages will focus on the students' own extended research project and will involve the preparation of a research proposal.

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15

Students will undertake an independent research project that will be designed by the student, in consultation with an academic supervisor, to address specific research questions. Students will be trained in key techniques relating to the project, and will work independently under the supervisor's guidance to design and execute experiments that will address the questions formulated earlier. The students will spend approximately 14 weeks in the laboratory and with then write up their findings in the style of a scientific report for publication in a high impact factor scientific journal. They will present a poster and an oral presentation in research symposia arranged by the School.

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60

Teaching and Assessment

The programme features a combination of examinations and practically focused continuous assessment, which gives you experience within a range of professional activities, eg, report writing, patent applications and public health information. The assessments have been designed to promote employability in a range of professional settings.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide an excellent quality of postgraduate-level education in the field of cancer, its biology and its treatment
  • provide a research-led, inspiring learning environment
  • provide a regional postgraduate progression route for the advanced study of a disease that affects a high proportion of the population
  • promote engagement with biological research into cancer and inspire you to pursue a scientific career inside or outside of the laboratory
  • develop subject specific and transferable skills to maximise employment prospects
  • promote an understanding of the impact of scientific research on society and the role for scientists in a range of professions.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • principles and application of key techniques in modern molecular bioscience
  • the molecular, cellular and physiological basis of cancer
  • key contributors to the onset of carcinogenesis
  • the interaction of genes and environment in the onset of cancer
  • current therapeutic strategies and their application in the treatment of different cancers
  • the basis for targeted treatment of specific cancer types
  • the processes and procedures by which scientific knowledge is translated to patient care
  • the way in which scientific knowledge is disseminated to different stakeholders: eg media, policymakers, and the public.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • research skills: how to formulate research questions and hypotheses to address scientific issues
  • analytical skills: interpretation of data, marshalling information from published sources, critical evaluation of your own research and that of others
  • information technology: use of appropriate technology to retrieve, analyse and present scientific information
  • statistical evaluation: the use of appropriate statistical analysis methods in handling scientific data .

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • experimental skills: how to design experiments to address specific research questions and hypotheses
  • practical skills: key techniques in modern molecular biology and their application in molecular bioscience to solve research problems
  • data handling: how to record experimental procedures and data appropriately using good laboratory practice
  • presentation of scientific research: how to write research articles in an appropriate style in keeping with high-impact-factor scientific journals, and posters and oral presentation for conferences and symposia
  • science writing: how to present scientific information to scientific and non-scientific audiences
  • careers: a recognition of career opportunities for scientists outside the laboratory.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • communication: the ability to organise information clearly, present information in oral and written form, adapt presentation for different audiences
  • reflection: make use of constructive informal feedback from staff and your peers and assess your own progress to enhance your performance and personal skills
  • self-motivation and independence: time and workload management in order to meet personal targets and imposed deadlines
  • team work: the ability to work both independently and as part of a research group using peer support, diplomacy and collective responsibility.

Careers

A postgraduate degree in the School of Biosciences is designed to equip our graduates with transferable skills that are highly valued in the workplace. Our research-led ethos ensures that students explore the frontiers of scientific knowledge, and the intensive practical components provide rigorous training in cutting edge technical skills that are used in the modern biosciences while working in areas of world-leading expertise within the School.

Destinations for our graduates include the leading pharmaceutical and biotechnological companies within the UK and leading research institutes both at home and abroad.

Professional recognition

This programme has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology. Masters Accreditation by the Society recognises programmes that support the development of specific skill sets, competencies and training which will enhance life and health science research. Programmes submitted for accreditation must satisfy the general requirements for Advanced Accreditation, which includes a significant period of practice.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The School is well equipped, with excellent general research laboratories, together with a range of specialised research resources including facilities for growing micro-organisms of all kinds, extensive laboratories for animal cell culture and monoclonal antibody production and an imaging suite providing high-resolution laser confocal and electron microscopy. Additionally, the macromolecular analysis facility provides resources for protein and mass spectrometry, CD and fluorescence spectroscopy, surface plasmon resonance, and HPLC and FPLC systems for all aspects of biochemical and microbiological research. Notably, the School has a new state-of-the-art Bruker Avance III four-channel 600 MHz NMR spectrometer equipped with a QCI cryoprobe. Our NMR spectrometer was upgraded to this status via an equipment research award from the Wellcome Trust.

Support

All research students are supervised closely and are regularly monitored online using the University progression and monitoring system. All postgraduate students have access to electronic and other resources providing information regarding technical issues relevant to their degrees, as well as subject-specific and transferable skills training. All research students are allocated a Postgraduate Supervisory Team, consisting of one or more day-to-day supervisors, and one or more members not involved in day-to-day supervision whose task it is to serve as independent monitors of progress.

Students on taught programmes are assigned a personal academic tutor to provide additional support in their postgraduate study. Throughout the course, you are fully embedded in the research culture of the School by attending research seminars and careers guidance sessions, and also participating in our vibrant outreach programme within the local community. In addition to taught modules, an in-depth research project takes place during the summer under the guidance of members of academic staff. These projects benefit from our outstanding research environment and first-class facilities.

An active school

Every week, Biosciences runs school seminars where external guest speakers or staff, talk about recent research. In addition, the department runs FIREBio (Forum for Innovation, Research and Enterprise in Biosciences), which is a weekly informal meeting for staff, postdocs and postgraduates involving short presentations and discussions. Postgraduates can use the opportunity to present unpublished research findings and discuss them in a supportive environment.

Worldwide partnerships

Staff in the School of Biosciences not only collaborate extensively with other universities in the UK (Cambridge, Cardiff, King’s College London, University College London, Newcastle, Oxford, Sussex, York, Manchester, Durham and Sheffield), but also have a wide-ranging network across the world with institutes including: the Boston Biomedical Research Institute; University of Hanover; Monash University Melbourne; Harvard; University of California, Davis; Université Claude Bernard – Lyon 1; Goethe-Universität Frankfurt; University of Queensland, Australia; University of Utah; Texas A&M University; and Braunschweig University of Technology. We also collaborate with organisations such as the Marie Curie Research Institute, Cancer Research UK, National Institute for Medical Research, MRC London, GlaxoSmithKline and the European Union Framework 5 CYTONET.

The School currently receives funding from: BBSRC; Biochemical Society; British Heart Foundation; E B Charitable Hutchinson Trust; the EC; EPSRC; Kent Cancer Trust;The Leverhulme Trust; National Institutes of Health (USA); Nuffield Foundation; Royal Society; Wellcome Trust. It also receives funding on specific projects from a number of industrial organisations and collaborators.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Nature Chemical Biology; Journal of Biological Chemistry; Cell; Molecular Cell; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA; PLOS One; and Journal of Cell Science.

Global Skills Award

All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.  

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 honours degree in a biosciences-related subject.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.

For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages. 

Need help with English?

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.

Research areas

Research in the School of Biosciences is focused primarily on essential biological processes at the molecular and cellular level, encompassing the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology and biomedical research.

In the most recent REF (2014) 100% of the research submitted for Biological Sciences by the School was judged to be of international quality.

The School houses a dynamic research community with five major research themes:

  • industrial biotechnology 
  • infection and drug resistance 
  • cancer and age-related diseases 
  • cellular architecture and dynamics 
  • reproduction, evolution and genomics

Each area is led by a senior professor and underpinned by excellent research facilities. The School-led development of the Industrial Biotechnology Centre (IBC), with staff from the other four other schools in the Faculty of Sciences, facilitates and encourages interdisciplinary projects. The School has a strong commitment to translational research, impact and industrial application with a substantial portfolio of enterprise activity and expertise.

Associated centres

Kent Fungal Group

The Kent Fungal Group (KFG) brings together a number of research groups in the School of Biosciences that primarily use yeasts or other fungi as ‘model systems’ for their research. One strength of the KFG is the range of model fungi being exploited for both fundamental and medical/translational research. These include Bakers’ yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and Fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe) and yeasts associated with human disease, specifically Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans.

In addition to studying key cellular processes in the fungal cell such as protein synthesis, amyloids and cell division, members of the KFG are also using yeast to explore the molecular basis of human diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as ageing. The KFG not only provides support for both fundamental and medical/translational fungal research, but also provides an excellent training environment for young fungal researchers.

Industrial Biotechnology Centre

The School houses one of the University’s flagship research centres – the Industrial Biotechnology Centre (IBC). Here, staff from Biosciences, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Computing and Engineering combine their expertise into a pioneering interdisciplinary biosciences programme at Kent, in order to unlock the secrets of some of the essential life processes. These approaches are leading to a more integrated understanding of biology in health and disease. In the Centre, ideas and technology embodied in different disciplines are being employed in some of the remaining challenges in bioscience. With such an approach, new discoveries and creative ideas are generated through the formation of new collaborative teams. In this environment, the IBC is broadening and enriching the training of students and staff in science and technology.

The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of Reproduction (CISoR)

The centre comprises several like-minded academics dedicated to the study of reproduction in all its forms. Drawing on a range of academic disciplines, CISoR's core philosophy is that the study of this fascinating field will advance further through a multidisciplinary approach. Impactful, excellent research forms the basis of CISoR’s activities including scientific advance, new products and processes, contribution to public policy, and public engagement.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Professor David Brown: Professor of Structural Biology

The elucidation and role of protein structure and function in molecular processes, in  particular those with a potential for therapeutic intervention through drug design.

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Dr Alessia Buscaino: Lecturer in Fungal Epigenetics

Genetics and epigenetics of repetitive DNA domains.

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Professor Michael Geeves: Professor of Physical Biochemistry

How the mechanochemistry of the myosin motor domain is tuned to produce widely differing activities and how the motor activity is regulated.

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Dr Campbell Gourlay: Senior Lecturer in Cell Biology

Investigating the role that the actin cytoskeleton and its regulation plays in cell homeostasis and mitochondrial function, with emphasis on the mechanisms of ageing and apoptosis.

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Professor Darren Griffin: Professor of Genetics

The cytogenetic basis of male infertility, in particular the role of genetic recombination and changes in genome organisation; chromosomes in early human development and the application for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis; comparative genomics and genome evolution in avian species.

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Dr Dan Lloyd: Reader in Pharmacology

Cellular responses to DNA damage, with particular emphasis on the repair of DNA damage in human cells induced by environmental and clinical agents; novel radiopharmaceuticals used in the imaging treatment of cancer.

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Professor Martin Michaelis: Professor of Cell Biology

The investigation of anti-cancer drugs in chemoresistant cancer cells; the influence of chemoresistance development on cancer cell biology.

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Dr Dan Mulvihill: Reader in Cell and Molecular Biology

The characterisation of myosins from the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, which have been implicated in diverse roles in its life cycle; characterising enzymatic properties of these myosins and correlating these with established in vivo assays.

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Dr Pauline Phelan: Senior Lecturer in Cell Biology

Gap junctions in nervous and immune systems; assembly, regulation and functions of innexin-based junctions.

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Professor Colin Robinson: Professor in Biotechnology

Mechanisms of protein transport across biological membranes; the twin-arginine translocation (Tat) system in bacteria and chloroplasts; protein sorting in cyanobacteria.

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Dr Gary Robinson: Senior Lecturer in Microbial Technology

The use of micro-organisms for biotransformations and bioremediation; microbial communication in host-pathogen interactions.

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Dr Jeremy Rossman: Lecturer in Virology

The role of morphology on the influenza virus lifecycle and pathogenesis.

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Dr Mark Shepherd: Lecturer in Microbial Biochemistry

Biosynthesis of haem; the structure/function of bacterial globin proteins; resistance mechanisms of bacterial pathogens to nitric oxide; disulphide folding; the use of haem precursors and derivatives as novel antimicrobials.

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Professor Mark Smales: Professor of Mammalian Cell Biotechnology

Protein and cell biotechnology; animal cell engineering; proteomics and protein bioprocessing.

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Dr A. Tsaousis: Lecturer in Molecular and Evolutionary Parasitology

Understanding the role and evolution of mitochondria in eukaryotic parasites.

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Professor Mick Tuite: Professor of Molecular Biology

The mechanism and control of translation in yeast; yeast prion proteins; molecular chaperones.

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Dr Tobias von der Haar: Senior Lecturer in Systems Biology

How the protein synthesis apparatus is regulated in cells and how it can achieve synthesis of exactly the right proteome for the right occasion.

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Professor Martin Warren: Professor of Biochemistry

Metabolic and genetic engineering; protein structure and function; biosynthesis of natural products including vitamins, cofactors and prosthetic groups.

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Dr Mark Wass: Lecturer in Computational Biology

The use of structural bioinformatics tools to analyse genetic variation and the functional effects that they may have in disease.

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Dr Richard Williamson: Senior Lecturer in Protein Biochemistry

The structure and function of proteins that play key biological roles within the body or that are known to be important in human disease; protein folding.

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Dr Wei-Feng Xue: Senior Lecturer in Chemical Biology

Investigation of the structure, the assembly mechanism, the biological and disease-associated properties, and the physiochemical properties of forms of protein known as amyloid.

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Dr Peter Ellis: Lecturer in Molecular Biology and Reproduction

Reproductive functions in models of infertility, genes on the mouse Y chromosome and their roles in spermatogenesis and in genome evolution.

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Professor M.D. Garrett: Professor of Cancer Therapeutics

Research is focussed on cell signalling and cell division, and how these cellular processes can be targeted for the treatment of cancer.

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Dr Ben Goult: Lecturer in Biochemistry

Research Interests

  • Cell-extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesion complexes, FERM domains
  • Structural Biology: NMR Spectroscopy, X-Ray Crystallography and Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS)
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Dr N.M. Kad: Lecturer in Molecular Biophysics

Key research areas are:

  • DNA repair
  • Single Molecule Biophysics
  • Muscle Contractility
  • Amyloid disease and inhibition
  • Molecular Motors
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Dr J.M.A. Tullet: Lecturer

Current, key research topics include;

  • Understanding the roles of transcription factors in the regulation of ageing.
  • Deciphering the relationship between diet and lifespan.
  • Examining the role of energy balance in regulating lifespan.
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Dr Martin Carden: Lecturer in Cell and Molecular Biology

The composition and function of the chaperonin CCT inside cells, especially as related to cytoskeletal organisation; cell cycle control; avoiding pathological protein aggregation.

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Dr Tim Fenton: Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences

Wet lab and computational approaches, focusing on human papillomavirus (HPV)-driven carcinogenesis as a paradigm for understanding tumour development.

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Dr Christopher Mulligan: Lecturer in Molecular Biosciences

The molecular mechanisms of transport proteins; how they recognise compounds, how they harness an energy source to pump compounds across the membrane, and how they move during transport.

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Fees

The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Cancer Biology - MSc at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7500 £19000
Part-time £3750 £9500

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact information@kent.ac.uk

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: