CRUK Cambridge Centre MRes + PhD in Cancer Biology

Information for non-clinical student applicants for 2019 - Applications are now OPEN

The CRUK Cambridge Centre is a dynamic collaboration of academic researchers, clinicians, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industries based in the Cambridge area. We combine world-class science and technology with excellent patient care to pioneer new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. By working together across different disciplines, we are breaking down the barriers between the laboratory and the clinic, enabling patients to benefit from the latest innovations in cancer science.

More than 600 laboratory researchers and physicians are united through a 12 programme structure that brings together investigators working on: Aerodigestive, Breast, Haematological, Brain, Ovarian, Paediatric, Pancreatic and Urological cancers. An additional four programmes focus on: ‘Cancer Imaging’ to promote our world-leading expertise in laboratory and clinical imaging research; ‘Cell and Molecular Biology’, to engage our colleagues working in all aspects of biology relevant to cancer; ‘Early Detection’ to support this special area of research emphasis in our CRUK Major Centre; and ‘Onco-Innovation’ to provide a collaboration point for our colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. AstraZeneca, Medimmune) as well as members from University departments in the physical sciences. 

This extensive research effort is supported by a state-of-the-art research environment that includes:

  • World-class research facilities for basic and clinical research
  • Nationally and internationally recognised centres of excellence – the Cambridge Centre is one of only two CRUK Major Centres, and Cambridge is a hub for Early Cancer Detection and Precision Cancer Medicine.
  • Outstanding opportunities for translational research – the wealth of basic research across the Centre fuels major efforts to translate fundamental scientific discoveries to benefit patients with cancer.  

The CRUK Cambridge Centre is lauching an innovative new MRes + PhD programme specifically designed to produce future generations of cancer leaders, trained in early detection and integrative cancer medicine. The new programme comprises a first year MRes degree with three components:

  • Two 15-week research rotations 
  • A weekly ‘Lectures in Cancer Biology and Medicine’ series and 1 week intensive teaching in genomic medicine, to cover the wide breadth of basic and applied cancer biology
  • A 1-2 week placement in a patient-facing setting to give insight into the rewards and challenges of cancer research

Successful completion of the 1 year MRes course, including assessment of rotation project write-ups and defense of a PhD proposal, will lead directly on to a 3 year PhD, usually in one of the rotation project host laboratories.

Five CRUK Cambridge Centre MRes + PhD studentships are available for non-clinical applicants, to commence in October 2019.

Students will choose one of the CRUK Cambridge Centre Programmes listed below, from which they will ultimately select two MRes rotation projects. The MRes rotation projects offered by each of the 5 Programmes are also listed under each Programme heading (click on the project title for further information). For the application, we ask that students choose *TWO* Programmes, a First and a Second choice:


Breast Cancer Programme

Please note that these projects have a quantitative aspect.

The use of Crispr scaring and scRNAseq to study cellular dynamics changes and cell fate decisions in TNBC
Supervisor: Walid Khaled
Second supervisor: John Marioni
Laboratory location: Department of Pharmacology

Combined effects of rare alleles in breast cancer susceptibility genes
Supervisor: Douglas Easton
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Strangeways Research Laboratory

Body composition and endometrial cancer risk
Supervisor: Deborah Thompson
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Strangeways Research Laboratory

Determining the accuracy of automated image analysis algorithms in scoring breast cancer tissue micro-array sections stained for different markers of protein expression
Supervisor: Paul Pharoah
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Strangeways Research Laboratory

Using data from large-scale international collaborative studies to understand the associations of genetic/lifestyle/hormonal risk modifying factors by breast cancer tumour subtypes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers
Supervisor: Antonis Antoniou
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Strangeways Research Laboratory


Cell and Molecular Biology Programme 

Modelling pancreatic cancer with organoids: a translational study
Christine Farr
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location:
Department of Genetics

Do nuclear functions underpin the oncogenic potential of the tyrosine kinase, ACK?
Supervisor: Darerca Owen
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Biochemistry (Sanger Building)

Checkpoint control of DNA replication prevents mutagenesis in normal and cancer cells
Supervisor: Philip Zegerman
Second supervisor:
Laboratory location: Gurdon Institue

Regulators of the tumour suppressor gene beclin 1
Supervisor: David Rubinsztein
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: CIMR

Regulation of human DNA replication
Supervisor: Torsten Krude
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Zoology

RNA helicases as genetic modifiers in ovarian cancer: a new link between the SWI/SNF complex and RNA processing
Supervisor: Eric Miska
Second supervisor: James Brenton
Laboratory location: Tennis Court Rd and Addenbrooke's Campus

Analysing the role of MYO1F in glioblastoma
Supervisor: Folma Buss
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: CIMR

Cellular roles of TCF25
Supervisor: Svetlana Khoronenkova
Second supervisor: Luca Pellegrini
Laboratory location: Department of Biochemistry

Developing nanobodies to stabilise and restore the function of melanoma-associated mutant p16INK4a
Supervisor: Laura Itzhaki
Second supervisor: Heike Laman
Laboratory location: Department of Pharmacology/Department of Pathology


Haematological Cancers Programme

Role of GNA13 in lymphoid malignancies
Supervisor: Daniel Hodson
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Targeting oestrogen receptors in myeloproliferative neoplasms
Supervisor: Simón Méndez-Ferrer
Second supervisor: Jason Carroll
Laboratory location: Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Identification of RNA binding protein required for Lymphoma cells survival and proliferation
Supervisor: Isaia Barbieri
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Addenbrooke's Hospital

Neuro-oncology Programme / Paediatric Cancers Programme

Why are some neuroblastoma tumours resistant to differentiation?
Supervisor: Anna Philpott
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre / Stem Cell Institute

Development of treatment strategies for ALK-positive neuroblastoma based on drug repurposing and novel drug combinations
Supervisor: Suzanne Turner
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Addenbrooke's Hospital

Targeting the neuroblastoma oncoprotein, MYCN, using intracellular nanobodies
Supervisor: Heike Laman
Second supervisor: Jason Carroll
Laboratory location: Department of Pathology

How does chromatin deregulation underpin a specific programme of neoplastic transformation in paediatric gliomas?
Supervisor: Manav Pathania
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Pathology

Cross-Programme Quantitative Projects

Please note that these projects have a quantitative and/or bioinformatics theme.

Predicting treatment responses using in silico mechanistic models of cancer (Cellular & Molecular Biology Programme)
Supervisor: Jasmin Fisher
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Biochemistry

Characterisation of the mutational progression in gastrointestinal adenocarcinomas (Early Detection Programme)
Supervisor: Rebecca Fitzgerald
Second supervisor: Moritz Gerstung
Laboratory location: EMBL-EBI

Network Modelling in Acute Leukaemias to determine critical nodes for maintenance of disease and as targets for therapy (Haematology Programme)
Supervisor: Brian Huntly
Second supervisor: Florian Markowetz
Laboratory location: Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Deciphering Leukaemogenic Mechanisms by Integrated Systems-Scale Analysis (Haematology Programme)
Supervisor: Berthold Göttgens
Second supervisor: John Marioni
Laboratory location: Cambridge Stem Cell Institute

Tracking immune cell dynamics over 20 years for the early detection of ovarian cancer (Early Detection Programme)
Supervisor: Jamie Blundell
Second supervisor: Martin Miller, Douglas Easton
Laboratory location: Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre

Investigation of chemotherapy resistance in a canine transmissible cancer (Cellular & Molecular Biology Programme)
Supervisor: Elizabeth Murchison
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Veterinary Medicine

Real-time habitat tracking in renal cancer (Urological and Cancer Imaging Programmes)
Supervisor: Grant Stewart
Second supervisor: Evis Sala, Richard Prager, Graham Treece
Laboratory location: Department of Radiology

Artificial Intelligence directed integration of imaging, pathology and genomics data to identify prognostic features and improve prostate cancer diagnosis (Early Detection Programme)
Supervisor: Charlie Massie
Second supervisor: Shamith Samarajiwa
Laboratory location: Hutchinson/MRC Research Centre

Machine Learning for mass spectrometry imaging of tumours (Cellular & Molecular Biology Programme)
Supervisor: Jules Griffin
Second supervisor: 
Laboratory location: Department of Biochemistry

One of the main principles of the Centre is the open exchange of scientific knowledge and skills across the many disciplines involved in cancer science, creating a culture of continuous learning and development for all members. By being part of the Centre, students will also have the opportunity to attend a number of lecture series, workshops and meetings aimed at facilitating and strengthening collaborations between complimentary disciplines and across different departments and institutes.

The CRUK Cambridge Centre MRes + PhD studentships include full funding from Cancer Research UK to cover the University Composition Fee (at Home/EU rate), a travel and consumables budget, and a generous stipend, which is currently £19,000 per annum. In addition, the CRUK Cambridge Centre and the Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust provide joint funding for one overseas, non-clinical student each academic year.


How to apply
Applications, including a CV and a Reasons for Applying statement (2,500 character limit), must be made via the University of Cambridge Graduate Admissions website Applicants must select up to two different Programmes (a first and second choice out of: Breast; Cell and Molecular Biology; Haematological Cancer; Neuro-oncology/Paediatric Cancer; and Cross-Programme Quantitative Projects) from the five listed above, and this should be clearly stated in your Reasons for Applying statement. The deadline for applications is 1st December 2018.

We invite applications from UK, EU and non-EU students for these non-clinical studentships. Please ensure you meet the University of Cambridge entrance requirements. 

If you are a clinical student you need to apply for a Clinical Research Training Fellowship via the University of Cambridge Job Opportunities website.

Interview and selection process
Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application via email by early January 2019.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend a day of interviews at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute on w/b 14th January 2019. Reasonable travel costs will be reimbursed with prior authorisation.

You will be interviewed by a panel of Principal Investigators from the CRUK Cambridge Centre, including members of the Programme to which you have applied, and you will be given the opportunity to visit the relevant department(s) or institute(s) for your selected Programme. We strongly encourage informal interaction between short-listed candidates and the Principal Investigators and their laboratories before the formal interview.

Following your interview you will be informed of the outcome via email.

Key dates
• The deadline for applications is 1st December 2018
• Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by early January 2019.
• Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview w/b 14th January 2019.
• Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their interview at the beginning of February 2018 and successful applicants will receive a formal offer letter by mid-February 2019

If you have general enquiries about the CRUK Cambridge Centre non-clinical MRes + PhD studentships or the application process, please contact