Postgraduate Course

MSc Cancer Biology

MSc Cancer Biology


The details
Cancer Biology
October 2020
1 year
Colchester Campus

If you want to pursue a research career in academia or industry, our MSc Cancer Biology will provide you with the essential advanced skills and knowledge for a role in biopharma, healthcare or cancer research. We offer many opportunities for you to explore medically relevant research in the School of Life Sciences including hospital-based sessions through our collaboration with local cancer specialists and clinicians.

An important and exciting part of your programme is an extensive independent research project, based in one of our academic research groups using advanced laboratories facilities and bioinformatics tools. There are also opportunities for research projects to take place within an industrial or clinical setting.

Throughout the course, you develop your knowledge in the essential areas of molecular and cellular biology which complement your specialist modules in cancer biology. You gain expertise in areas including:

  • Specific cancer types (including breast, prostate, pancreatic and colon cancer)
  • Clinical aspects of cancer
  • Emerging trends in cancer research

You are also trained in modern research methods and approaches which will develop your skills in complex biological data analysis and specific techniques in cancer research.

Within our School of Life Sciences, two-thirds of our research is rated “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and you will learn from and work alongside our expert staff as you undertake your own research.

Why we're great.
  • Study specialist modules taught by academic staff, cancer specialists and clinicians within the academic and hospital environment
  • Carry out your own 16-week research project, based in an academic, industrial or clinical setting
  • Graduate in a subject which is in demand from the biotechnology and biomedical research industries
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

We have a very strong research team in the area of cancer biology, who are well placed to deliver the specialist teaching on this course.

The team includes Dr Ralf Zwacka (apoptotic and survival signalling in cancer), Dr Greg Brooke (steroid hormone receptor signalling in cancer), Dr Metodi Metodiev (clinical proteomics and bioinformatics), Dr Vladimir Teif (computational and systems biology), Professor Nelson Fernandez (tumour immunology) and Dr Filippo Prischi (structural biology and biophysics of novel drug targets).

External experts also input to your teaching, including guest speakers from hospitals and research institutions, who deliver classes both on-campus and within the hospital environment.

As one of the largest schools at Essex, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment with research-led study and high-quality teaching, and you benefit from our academics’ wide range of expertise and research.

The University of Essex has a Women's Network to support female staff and students and was awarded the Athena SWAN Institutional Bronze Award in November 2013 in recognition of its continuing work to support women in STEM.

Specialist facilities

Recent investment has provided modern facilities for functional genomics, computational biology and imaging biological systems. On our course you have the opportunity to:

  • Study in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
  • Carry out your research project in shared lab space, alongside PhD students and researchers engaged in cutting-edge cancer research
  • Learn to use state-of-the-art research facilities, including an advanced microscopy suite, proteomics laboratory, cell culture, bioinformatics and genomics facilities, modern molecular biology laboratories, and protein structure analysis

Your future

Graduates who are skilled in the research methods embedded into your course are in demand from the biotechnology and biomedical research industries in this area of the UK and beyond.

Many of our Masters students progress to study for a PhD, and there are many opportunities within our school leading to a career in science.

We work with our University’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

“The Department of Biological Sciences were brilliantly informative, supportive and organised. I was able to spend a lot of time in the laboratory, both during practical classes and whilst on placement at Cancer Research UK. As a direct result of this placement I was able to secure my current position as a Research Assistant at the institute.”

Marisa Di Monaco, MSc Molecular Medicine 2015

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall 2.2 or equivalent in a relevant subject such as : Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Sciences, Genetics, Pharmacology, Medicine, Chemistry.

Your Degree should contain some Biology/Medical components including Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Molecular Genetics, Drug Design, Immunology, Microbiology and Virology. We will consider applicants with an unrelated degree but with relevant work experience in Biology or Medicine.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

Advanced Cancer Biology

Integrating fundamental science with a clinical aspect, this module will provide you with advanced and up-to-date knowledge in contemporary cancer research. Members of the School and external experts, including guest speakers from hospitals and research institutions, will deliver classes both on-campus and within the hospital environment. The module will focus on breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer diseases studied at Essex. The role of cancer stem cells, immune system, genetic and epigenetic factors and signaling pathways in cancer development will be explored. The application of theoretical knowledge in cancer research into clinical practice (“from bench to bedside”) will be discussed.

View Advanced Cancer Biology on our Module Directory

Practical Skills in Cancer Research

This module will provide you with the most up-to-date skills and techniques used in contemporary cancer research. The program is composed of three cancer research themes: (1) Anti-cancer therapeutics: from design to production; (2) Use and the analysis of big data in cancer research; and (3) Molecular and cellular methods in cancer research. Lectures and seminars will be integrated with practical sessions linking theoretical knowledge with practical skills.

View Practical Skills in Cancer Research on our Module Directory

Gene Technology and Synthetic Biology

The development of techniques to manipulate and analyse nucleic acids has revolutionised the study of biology, and provided the key driver for massive expansion in biotechnology. You explore the major tools used in gene technology and gain a practical understanding of how they are used, as well as the molecular techniques that can be used to explore biological questions. Gain an understanding of the impact of gene technology and synthetic biology and explore the applications of genome scale methods for studying gene expression in biotechnology and molecular medicine.

View Gene Technology and Synthetic Biology on our Module Directory

Protein Technologies

Explore the features and properties of proteins, and examine how they are related to function, as well as their wider role within important biological processes. Getting hands-on, you produce, isolate, purify and characterise proteins with biotechnological potential, as well gaining valuable experience in obtaining and analysing proteomic data.

View Protein Technologies on our Module Directory

Research Project: MSc Cancer Biology

The Research Project is a core module, contributing 33% to your final marks and is the largest piece of work you will need to complete during the course. You will be allocated a supervisor with expertise in one of the areas of cancer research, who will design specific MSc projects and will provide guidance on the academic standard, methods, data analysis and means of scientific communications.

View Research Project: MSc Cancer Biology on our Module Directory


  • Advanced theoretical lectures and seminars
  • Small group laboratory sessions
  • Gain practical research skills on your individual research project


  • Our modules are assessed by a combination of exams, essays, verbal/visual presentations, laboratory reports, and your research project

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee


International fee


Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2019 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, September 21, 2019
  • Saturday, October 26, 2019


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to over 13,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


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If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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