Cancer Biology and Therapeutics - MSc

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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.

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 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.

View our available research projects page

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 40 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.

Entry requirements

Smiling female postgraduate student
You are more than your grades

For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Entry requirements

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

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may 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. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.

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.

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Course structure

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

The MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapeutics 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

This programme has 120 credits of taught modules, of which 105 are compulsory.

Students must complete all compulsory modules and select 15 credits from a list of optional modules approved by the School of Biosciences. 

Students must complete all compulsory modules and select 15 credits from a list of optional modules approved by the School of Biosciences. 

Compulsory modules currently include

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.

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.

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.

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.

Science has a profound influence on public life. This moduleconsiders the ways in which different professional and public groups interactwith science and scientists

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.

Optional modules may include

Recent events have illustrated the importance of ensuring that science is communicated effectively to non-scientific audiences. This module considers best practice in science communication, making use of case studies that illustrate its importance in developing an informed and empowered public, while developing skills in different modes of communication that enhance future employability.

The module aims to develop understanding and analytical skills in virology, based around interactive seminars wherein students will analyse, present, and discuss the relevant research literature. The students will gain experience in scientific design, literature analysis, scientific communication, and the analysis of experimental data.

Bioinformatics Data sources & Sequence analysis: Databases and data availability. Using sequence data for analysis – sequence searching methods, multiple sequence alignments, residue conservation, Protein domains and families.

Cancer formation and progression; underlying factors, cancer cell heterogeneity, uncontrolled cell division, invasive growth/ metastasis formation.

The Molecular Biology of Cancer: (Proto-)Oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes, cell cycle control, cell death.

Cancer therapies.

Compulsory modules currently include

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.

During the Spring term, students are assigned to supervisors by the project co-ordinators (members of academic staff, generally the co-ordinators of the individual MSc-T programmes). Students then meet with their project supervisor to discuss the general subject matter of the project and obtain guidance on background reading, following which the student and supervisor work together to design the project. Orientation sessions are provided covering laboratory health and safety and research ethics.

The research activities take place in the Summer term and vacation. Students are expected to dedicate 600 hours to their project work. Of this time, students taking "wet-lab" projects will spend at least 11 weeks working full time in a laboratory setting planning, carrying out and documenting experiments, with the remainder of the time allocated to background reading and report writing. There are informal opportunities to discuss the project work and relevant literature with the supervisor and other laboratory staff on an ongoing basis. Formal meetings may be arranged at the discretion of the student and supervisor.

Students undertaking "dry-lab" projects analyse published information (e.g. literature, databases) or unpublished data sets are expected to spend the same amount of time on their projects as "wet-lab" students. "Dry-lab" students are expected to meet with their supervisor at least once a week to discuss progress and ideas and to resolve problems.

At the end of the formal project time, students are allowed time to complete the final project report, although they are encouraged to start writing as early as possible during the Summer term. The supervisor provides feedback on content and style of a draft of the report, which should be in the style of a scientific report for publication in an appropriate scientific journal. In addition, students are expected to deliver their findings as a poster in a symposium organised by the School.

Find out more about BIOS8450

Teaching

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 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 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.

Fees

The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £15900
  • International full-time £21200
  • Home part-time £4650
  • EU part-time £7950
  • International part-time £10600

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

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.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

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:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

Search scholarships

Independent rankings

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.

Research

Research areas

Within our collaborative research community, the School offers an inspiring environment where researchers at all levels can produce their best work. 

An impressive 93% of our active research staff submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and 88% of this research was classed as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'.

Our research is focussed on biological processes at the molecular and cellular level and spans the disciplines of biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology and biomedical research. The five main research themes within the School are:

Each theme is supported by specialist facilities. 

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.

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.

To give you an idea of possible career destinations, recent graduates have gone on to the following roles: Research Assistant at the Institute of Cancer Research and at Illumina, as Scientific Copy Editor at Spandidos Publications, Lab assistant at Givaudan, Cancer Care Coordinator at Macmillan Cancer Research, Clinical Trial Administrator or Medical Lab Assistant at NHS Trusts and onto PhDs at BRIC Copenhagen, University of Kent, Institute of Cancer Research and University of Leeds.

Help finding a job

The School of Biosciences has a dedicated Placements and Employability Officer and your academic supervisor will be able to advise you and give you access to professionals in their network.

The University has a friendly Careers and Employability Service, which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

These services are available to you for 3 years after completing your course.

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.  

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