Oncology MSc


Fact file

MSc Oncology
1 year full-time
Entry requirements
Other requirements
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Queen's Medical Centre
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This course is for scientists and other graduates looking to learn more about the science and practice of oncology.
Read full overview

Cancer is a subject that embraces an ever-widening range of disciplines. The MSc Oncology is suitable both for scientists and other graduates who wish to learn more about the science as well as the practice of oncology, and for clinicians together with other health care professionals who require further training in the molecular aspects of oncology. 

Course aims

The course aims to: 

  • provide formal training for basic scientists and clinicians in the theoretical and practical aspects of the causes and treatment of cancer.
  • through the project and dissertation, familiarise you with the research environment, and enable you to develop the skills necessary to undertake independent research.

The MSc Oncology draws on a unique blend of scientific and clinical expertise and experience, and benefits from strong ties that exist between the clinic and laboratory within the Division of Oncology.


Key Facts

  • The course has been running since 1997, and continues to provide up-to-date knowledge and training to its students.
  • The course partly fulfils the syllabus requirements for clinicians studying to sit Part 1 FRCR exams. The syllabus also meets the curriculum requirements for Higher Specialist Training in Medical Oncology set out by the Joint Committee on Higher Medical Training. CME Credits are also available.
  • The research carried out within Oncology is recognised at an international level.

What our students say

The MSc Oncology attracts students from all over the world.

Yin Mar (2016) from Myanmar shares her experience. 

More comments: 

Overall very interesting and provides a solid background into the development, causes and treatment of cancer. A good stepping stone into further research and provides a good knowledge of cancer and general biology. I personally feel far more confident going into a PhD having done the course.



Very worthwhile to have more lecture material on cancer and lab/research experience before starting a PhD. I probably wouldn't have got the PhD of my dreams if it wasn't for this course.



Overall, the MSc Oncology has been extremely interesting, incorporating many aspects within the field, all of which were relevant to the course from a scientific and clinical point of view.



Individual lecturers/modules have been fantastic. The staff are enthusiastic, approachable and encourage asking questions. The research project has been very useful in terms of learning techniques and getting the chance to manage your own piece of mini research. The personal tutor system is good for career advice and general support through the course.






Course details

Course director

Dr Claire Seedhouse, Division of Cancer and Stem Cells, School of Medicine


The MSc Oncology is taught on a full-time basis over one year.

You will take 120-credits’ worth of taught modules, as well as a 60-credit research project leading to a dissertation. 

The course consists of nine taught modules (drawn from eight core and one optional module) and a laboratory or literature-based project.


How will I learn?

Course material is delivered in a variety of ways, including lectures, practical sessions and tutorials. The online MSc database provides a central point for students to access their timetables, assessment results and easy access to additional module resources provided by staff.

The Greenfield Medical Library houses a broadly based collection of biomedical, nursing and healthcare related books and periodicals and holds current subscriptions to 780 journals, reports and series titles. In addition to the print versions housed in the library, the majority of journals can be accessed electronically.

All teaching is carried out in dedicated teaching facilities within the University and hospital which contains the administration office, three seminar rooms, two tutorial rooms and a teaching lab.


Who teaches on the course?

The course is convened by academics within the Academic Division of Clinical Oncology. There are also several external lecturers who contribute to the course.

Current research themes within the department include the following: Novel tumour-associated cytokines; Characterisation of tumour antigens; Manipulation of the immune system with anti-idiotypic antibodies; Development and biological assessment of cancer vaccines; Development of novel prognostic screening techniques; Characterisation of novel chemotherapeutic drugs; Drug and radiation interactions.

Projects are offered throughout the school, in laboratories recognised at an International level for their work. This provides a valuable opportunity for MSc students to carry out a five-month project in laboratories at the forefront of research


How will I be assessed?

The course is assessed using several different methods including exams (multiple-choice, short answer or essay questions), essay questions submitted as coursework, and oral presentations.

The research project is also examined by viva voce (oral) examination, as well as presenting the project as a research paper.


How is the course evaluated?

The quality of teaching in the course is monitored in several different ways, including student evaluation of teaching (SET), student evaluation of modules (SEM) and student evaluation of the course (SEC). In addition, the school regularly carries out peer review of teaching to ensure that our high standards are maintained.

The course material is reviewed by an external examiner to ensure that the content remains relevant and of a comparable standard to other postgraduate teaching within the UK.

Students are asked to elect an individual to act as course representative who will be responsible for passing on comments to the management group and raising awareness of any issues which may need addressing.


What support is available?

It would be unusual to start the challenge of a new academic course without some apprehensions, especially when you carry existing responsibilities with you and may be moving away from home. We want our students to enjoy their time with us. It is in all our interests that you should be well supported, both personally and academically, and in accordance with the University's Equal Opportunities Policy.

The course director, Dr Ian Spendlove, is responsible for the general management and organisation of the course, and is part of the School Postgraduate teaching committee. Any issues or problems with any part of the course can be referred to him in the first instance.

Each student is also allocated a personal tutor within two weeks of starting the MSc, and they are required to have at least two documented meetings per semester. The personal tutors are members of academic staff within the School, and are available for both academic guidance and pastoral care.

In addition to this support, the University provides central services in the form of counselling, academic support and student guidance. The International Office provides additional resources for overseas students.


What is the course timetable like?

The majority of teaching will take place on two days of the week, with the remaining time available for self-directed learning and preparation of assessments.  

Research projects commence immediately following allocation in January, initially as three days per week, becoming four days and, ultimately, five days per week following final module exams.

Final exams are held in January and May.





Core modules

Molecular Basis of Cancer

This 20 credit module consisting of a series of lectures, will give students an in-depth understanding of normal cell regulatory mechanisms and how these are altered by the acquisition of the carcinogenic phenotype. Students will gain an understanding of the molecular basis of cancer and how this may impact upon subsequent patient treatment and prognosis.

Topics covered include: DNA structure and function, carcinogenesis, regulation of transcription and translation, transcriptional factors in oncogenesis, oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes, molecular biology of the cell cycle, chromosome abnormalities in human cancer, and familial cancer syndromes.

The module is assessed using a group presentation (30%) and a two hour exam consisting of multiple-choice questions and short essay questions (70%).

More information on this module


Tumour Physiology

A series of specialist lectures will be provided on the growth and differentiation of tumours and their interaction with the host. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the role of angiogenesis and the host's immune system as determinants of tumour growth. This module will develop the students understanding of the tumour in relationship to the whole organism. Topics include: tumour-host interactions, tumour vasculature (structure and function), tumour growth kinetics, angiogenesis and vascular mediated strategies, metabolism, the biology of metastasis, and molecular and cellular aspects of apoptosis. This module is taught in year one of the part-time course.

This 10 credit module is assessed by a one hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (100%).

More information on this module


Tumour Immunology

This 10-credit module is structured to provide a good understanding of immunological approaches to cancer immunotherapy. This is subsequently developed into a detailed knowledge of immunological mechanisms and how these may be used to optimise therapeutic approaches. Topics include: humoral, cellular and innate immunity, immune surveillance, antibody therapies and cancer vaccines, antigenic targets, antigen presentation, clinical trial design and a cancer vaccine workshop.

This module is assessed by a 1500 word essay submitted as coursework (30%) and a one hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (70%).

More information on this module

Diagnostic Pathology of Cancer

During this 20 credit module a series of lectures will be given on the clinical aspects of tumour growth and dissemination. Students will become familiar with practical microscopy of human tumours; understand the technique of immunohistochemistry and be able to interpret results from basic immunohistochemical panels of tumour markers to arrive at a cellular phenotype; be familiar with nomenclature applied to histological and cytological features of tumours, and be familiar with the classification of human neoplastic conditions.

Topics include: adaptive and maladaptive patterns of tissue growth, neoplasia, in situ neoplasia, tumour classification, staging and grading, diagnostic techniques (immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry, molecular markers) .

This module is assessed by a one and a half hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (100%).

More information on this module


Cancer Statistics and Epidemiology

The aim of this 10 credit module is to give students a basic understanding of the principles underlying the design and analysis of epidemiological studies and clinical trials. Topics will include: study design, bias and confounding, sampling variation, summarising and presenting data, measures of effect, hypothesis testing (t-test, chi-squared test), survival and longitudinal data, meta-analysis, non-parametric methods, correlation, introduction to multivariate regression analysis, screening, sample size and power.

Students will have the ability to use a range of routinely available statistical sources for clinical research, and to describe and explain concepts fundamental to clinical research of all kinds. They will be able to describe, interpret and appraise the applicability of statistical methods used in a wide range of clinical and biological research.

This module is assessed by a 1500-2000 report (30%) and a one and a half hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (70%). 

More information on this module


Drug Design and Pharmacology

At the end of the series of lectures and interactive workshops students should be able to: appreciate the interplay of chemistry, pharmacology, computational and clinical factors in the discovery and development of new anticancer therapeutic products. Students will develop their analytical skills through scrutiny of controversial papers in drug design, and will be required to work as a group when giving presentations at interactive workshop sessions.

This 10-credit module is assessed by an essay submitted as coursework (30%), a 10 minute presentation (10%) and a final exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (70%).  

More information on this module


Techniques in Cellular and Molecular Biology

A series of lectures will be given on the various practical and analytical techniques commonly used in the scientific investigation of cancer. An extensive set of laboratory practicals are conducted to allow students to experience a variety of the techniques taught in lectures. The student will acquire a theoretical and practical understanding of the majority of techniques used in modern molecular biology. This will provide them with a basic grounding to be used in subsequent laboratory-based research.

This 20-credit module is assessed by a two and a half hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (100%).

More information on this module


Radiation Biology Applied to Therapy

A series of specialist lectures will provide students with an overview of the principles of the interaction of ionising radiation with living systems. Particular attention will be given to the scientific basis of fractionation in radiotherapy, radiation pathology and normal tissue effects, tumour radiobiology and molecular aspects of radiation biology.

By the end of the module the student will be able to describe the response of biological systems following exposure to ionising radiation, to interpret the biological basis and consequences of conventional and novel fractionation regimes in radiotherapy and to critically appraise the significance of new research findings.

This 10-credit module is assessed by a 1500 word essay (20%) and a one hour exam consisting of multiple-choice and short answer questions (80%). 

More information on this module


Optional modules

Clinical Pharmacology and Systematic Therapies*

A series of specialist lectures will be given on medical oncology with special emphasis given to current and novel treatment protocols.

This module includes:

  • Chemotherapy - basic principles
  • Pharmacology of analgesiscs, steroids and anti-emetics
  • Pharmacokinetics/Pharmacodynamics
  • High Dose Chemotherapy Approaches
  • Alkylating Agents/Pyrimidine Antimetabolites/Antifolates
  • Topoisomerase Inhibition
  • Complications of Cancer Treatment
  • Drug Resistance and other related topics

This is a 10 credit module comprising one two-hour lecture per week (26 hours). It is assessed by a one hour exam consisting of multiple choice and short essay questions.

More information on this module


Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy

A series of specialist lectures on medical oncology with emphasis given to current and novel treatment protocols. 

This module includes: 

  • Health economics
  • Organisation of cancer services
  • Surgical management of cancer
  • Principles of chemotherapy
  • Endocrine therapy
  • Novel approaches to cancer therapy/gene therapy

This is a 10 credit module comprising one two-hour lecture per week (26 hours). It is assessed by a one hour exam consisting of MCQ’s and short essay questions.

More information on this module 


The selection of optional module is undertaken by the candidate in consultation with the course director and is subject to approval by the Head of School.

*For those individuals wishing to follow the syllabus requirements for the Part I fellowship exam of the Royal College of Radiologists and for Medical Oncology candidates in a UK training post, Clinical Pharmacology and Systemic Therapies is regarded as a compulsory module in year one.

Please note that all module details are subject to change. 

Research project

What the research project entails

The research project module is a key aspect of our MSc courses, accounting for a third of the total course marks.

Students will normally carry out laboratory (or literature) based research projects. Students will develop not only their practical and analytical skills but will also gain grounding in the philosophy of scientific research. Skills in presentation and scientific writing will also be refined.

The project will begin during the spring semester, and continue through the summer semester by full-time candidates, or immediately upon completion of first year exams by part-time candidates. The dissertation should be based upon 400-450 hours of research together with 135-185 hours to prepare the dissertation and presentation.

The student's practical ability will be assessed by observations made by the project supervisor, according to provided guidelines, and will account for 15% of the final mark. The work will be presented in the form of 5,000 word dissertation in the style of a research paper (50% final module mark). Examination by viva voce with two examiners and an external examiner will account for the remaining 35% final mark.

Upon completion of the module the candidate will be able to demonstrate creative thinking, problem solving, critical analysis including appropriate statistical approaches, and effective communication and bio-informatic skills. The project aims to provide training for candidates wishing to enter into a PhD training programme.


List of previous research projects

Previous full-time research projects have included the following:

  • Investigation of interference of NF-kB – DNA binding by novel inhibitors of thioredoxin signal transduction
  • Transcriptional/translational analysis of breast cancer providing a modern clinical classification system
  • Polymorphisms in DNA repair and detoxification genes in acute myeloid leukaemia and myelodysplastic syndrome
  • The role of hypoxia in physiological versus tumour angiogenesis
  • Investigation of WNT signalling pathway involvement in supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumours
  • The contribution of drug resistant cancer stem cells to paediatric brain tumours
  • The effects of chemotherapy on cognition and hippocampal stem cell proliferation in an animal model
  • Cancer Neural Stem Cells: the role of the cellular microenvironment in brain tumour behaviour
  • Prognostic and predictive role of redox protein expression in locally advanced breast cancer
  • Delineating the role of MLH1 in colorectal cancer

Previous part-time research projects have included the following:

  • An observational study to assess patients preferences for the communication of bad news in a cancer centre
  • Would CT scan of the thorax as opposed to chest X-ray, change the stage, and therefore management, of metastatic gestational trophoblastic neoplasia, as opposed to using chest X-ray alone
  • Concordance of coping styles between asian and caucasian cancer patients and their families: a cross sectional survey
  • Genetic Basis of Abnormal Radiosensitivity
  • Supraomohyoid Neck Dissection in Oral Cancer - does imaging influence use?
  • Change in practice in central line care - does it influence infection rates?


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Home/EU students

The Graduate School website at The University of Nottingham provides more information on internal and external sources of postgraduate funding.


International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of masters scholarships for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Applications for 2017 entry scholarships will open in late 2016. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your masters course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



The MSc Oncology draws upon a unique blend of scientific and clinical expertise and experience, and benefits from strong ties between the clinic and laboratory within the Department of Clinical Oncology. 

It is particularly suitable for graduates wishing to pursue a career in oncology, for candidates who may wish to enter the pharmaceutical industry.

Students from our suite of courses have gone on to a wide variety of positions - here are a few examples: 

  • SHO in Medical Microbiology
  • Research Technicians - Oncology
  • SpR in Medical Oncology
  • PhD - London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Infection Control Nurses
  • Regulatory Affairs Specialist - AMGEM Biotech
  • PhD - School of Veterinary Science, University of Cambridge
  • Application Specialist Biological Sciences - Japan
  • SpR in Clinical Oncology
  • Clinical Trial Data Managers
  • Biomedical Scientists (BMS1)
  • PhD - School of Molecular Medical Sciences, University of Nottingham
  • Research Technician, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Nottingham


Average starting salary and career progression

In 2015, 93% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Medicine & Health Services who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £28,925 with the highest being £70,000.*

*Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2014/15. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career.

Our Careers and Employability Service offers a range of services including advice sessions, employer events, recruitment fairs and skills workshops – and once you have graduated, you will have access to the service for life.

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research

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