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Duration

One year, full time

Application Deadline

30 June 2020

Location

St George's, University of London

UK, EU and non-EU (international) citizens may apply

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In 2014 there were over 350,000 new cases of cancer in the UK alone. By some estimates 42% of cases are preventable. This specialist programme is aimed at those interested in understanding how basic cell pathways can be subverted during cancer development. 

Biomedical scientists work at the cutting edge of research and medicine, helping to solve some of the most threatening diseases and conditions facing mankind. St George’s boasts a renowned heritage in this field, constantly developing new and innovative solutions to enhance diagnosis, prevention and treatment of numerous diseases.  Edward Jenner, the ‘father of immunology’ who successfully performed the first vaccination against smallpox, was based at St George’s. More recently, our research has included a focus on tuberculosis, malaria and HIV in low and middle income countries.

This compelling course enables you to continue that pioneering work. It will provide you with the skills, knowledge and experience for a rewarding career in biomedical science or to progress on to a fulfilling research degree such as a PhD. 

You can look forward to working directly alongside high-calibre researchers who are leading experts in their fields. You will learn numerous, valuable transferable skills, including critical appraisal, problem solving, research techniques, accessing technology for FRET and TURF, utilising large data, numeracy, and presenting skills.

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Highlights

  • Excellent Image Resource and Biomedical Research facilities to help you develop strong research knowledge and skills.

  • Shared campus with St George’s Hopsital, one of the largest teaching hospitals in the UK.

  • Expertise in clinical, epidemiological and laboratory research within both the university and the hospital.

Tuition fees

2020 UK/EU: £13,250

2020 Non-EU (international): £23,000

Fees are reviewed annually.

For more information, see our fees and funding pages.

Funding your study

We have a range of funding opportunities available for students. You may be eligible for the following.

  • A postgraduate loan from the UK government of up to £10,609. Find out more information about postgraduate loans at fees and funding.

  • An alumni discount – if you're a former St George’s student you can qualify for an additional 10% discount from this course.

For more information, see our fees and funding pages..

Read more information about our courses and university services terms and conditions.

To be considered for this course, you will need to:

  • meet the entry criteria

  • write a personal statement

  • provide two suitable references.

All qualifications must have been awarded no more than five years before the start date of the course you are applying for.

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Undergraduate degree or equivalent

You should normally have, or be expected to achieve, a minimum of a second class degree (2:2). For healthcare graduates a pass is required.

We welcome applications from individuals from a range of backgrounds, including humanities, science and healthcare. 

Alternative professional qualifications, or previous related experience, may be considered and we encourage you to apply. You will be expected to have experience of working in global health (eg for non-governmental organisations) and you may be required to submit supplementary details (eg transcripts). Alternatively, you may be required to complete one taught module before upgrading to the MSc.

Applicants for stand-alone modules will need to meet the same entry requirements.

English language

If your native language is not English, you will need to provide evidence of your English language ability.

English language tests are valid for only two years. If you took a test more than two years ago, you will be required to complete another. Applicants are only permitted a maximum of two test attempts within a one year period.

  • IIELTS: overall 6.5, with 6.0 in Listening, 6.0 in Reading, 6.0 in Writing and 6.0 in Speaking

  • Pearson (PTE Academic): overall 67, with 67 in Listening, 67 in Reading, 67 in Writing, 67 in Speaking

  • Cambridge English Advanced (Certificate in Advanced English): overall 185, with no less than 176 in each section

  • Cambridge English: Proficiency (also known as Certificate of Proficiency in English): overall 185, with no less than 176 in each section

Personal statement and references

You will be asked to outline your reasons for applying for the course in a brief personal statement on the application form. You will also need to provide two satisfactory references. See the ‘Apply’ tab for more information.

On the Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer pathway you will be taught the essentials of conducting high quality research through a range of core modules, and will gain a detailed knowledge of cancer before undertaking your research project. 

The MRes is made up of 180 credits. All modules are compulsory, and will equip you with the skills and knowledge to conduct high quality research. 

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Core modules

Research methods

15 credits

Statistics

15 credits

Research project planning and management

15 credits

Research project

105 credits

Specialist module – Molecular Mechanisms of Cancer

This 30 credit module will provide a basic introduction to the normal functioning of relevant cellular pathways and an indication of how problems can arise. You will then be able to select an individual project and carry out detailed original research into your chosen area.

The module will develop your understanding of the fundamental cellular and molecular principles governing tumorigenesis, and of how the biology of cancer has led – and will continue to lead – to new therapies.

This pathway will take advantage of active research taking place at St George’s in a wide variety of cellular and molecular processes that are compromised in cancer. This will allow you to explore the key scientific advances that have led to the modern view of cancer as a disease of altered cell signalling arising from DNA damage. The module will also give you insight into how new sequencing technologies and ‘omics’ methodologies are providing novel insights into susceptibility to and development of cancer.

Past research projects

The substantive research project is worth 105 credits. Here are some examples of past student projects:

The cAMP pathway in regulation of melanocyte differentiation: implications for skin cancer

Aim:  To determine the effects of cAMP agonists on pigmentation of hypopigmented melanocytes in disorders of melanosome biogenesis.

Brief overview: A hallmark of melanocytes is their ability to produce pigment (melanin) in specialised lysosome-related organelles (melanosomes) in response to UV radiation and growth factors. Several genetic disorders involving abnormalities in skin and/or hair pigmentation are associated with defects in formation and trafficking of melanosomes. These disorders include Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS), disorders of organelle biogenesis, and respective mouse models, which are playing central roles in current studies of protein trafficking and organelle assembly. Based on our data we will expand our investigation (Nature, 2008) and study the effect of cAMP agonists on the routing of tyrosinase, an enzyme that catalyses the production of melanin, in BLOC-1, -2 and -3-deficient melanocytes, models of HPS. Our studies will focus on the effects of cAMP agonists on pigmentation of BLOC-1, -2 and -3-deficient and wild-type melanocytes assessed by light and fluorescence microscopy. Our findings might help in understanding and developing a general mechanism of protection from damaging effects of UV radiation, and thus increase our knowledge of skin cancer prevention.

Methods used for data collection: Advanced mammalian cell culture. Measures of cell proliferation and differentiation. Immunostaining. Light and fluorescence microscopy.

What is the role of the human TTC4 protein in apoptosis, proliferation and cancer?

Brief overview: TTC4 is a human protein that is highly expressed in tumour cell lines. Mutations in TTC4 show correlation with a poor prognosis for the progression of malignant melanoma. We have shown that it is a co-chaperone for the Hsp90 protein chaperone machinery and most likely acts in the interaction of Hsp90 with specific ‘client proteins’. Possible client proteins with which it interacts (cdc6,bag6,msl1, hnRNPk) have functions in several of the processes which are hallmarks of cancer – proliferation, genome stability and apoptosis – suggesting that TTC4 may also function in these processes.

Consistent with this, TTC4 is broken down during apoptosis and alterations in the protein appear to cause changes in both proliferation and apoptosis. The aim of this project is to analyse the role of TTC4 in these pathways in more detail with a view to getting a better understanding of the involvement of TTC4 in cancer. We will approach this from two directions by making changes in the TTC4 protein: we will map the regions of TTC4 which interact with its client proteins, and attempt to generate mutations in the protein which prevent its interaction with the clients. If time permits, one of more of these mutations will be introduced into cell lines in culture. These will be monitored for changes in well-defined markers for proliferation and apoptosis and functional changes in TTC4 interacting proteins.

We will also investigate ways of reducing the level of TTC4 in cells by shRNA/CRISPR based methodology and if successful will observe how this affects cellular function by making changes in the client proteins. The problem with the above approach is that we may not be able to distinguish the TTC4 interacting regions for the different client proteins. Therefore, to understand the pathways involved in the cellular effects of TTC4 we will have to study individual client proteins. A previous student in the lab has already done some preliminary mapping on the interactions between TTC4 and cdc6, msl and hnRNPk. We will now carry out more precise mapping of the interacting regions and again attempt to generate mutations in the client proteins which prevent their interaction with TTC4. Again if time permits, we will look at the effect of these mutations in the client proteins on their individual function, as well as proliferation and apoptosis.

Methods used for data collection: Basic molecular biology techniques (e.g. cloning , pcr, use restriction enzymes etc), basic protein analysis techniques (eg protein extraction, protein gels, protein blotting, immunoprecipitation), two hybrid assays, cell culture and manipulation, proliferation apoptosis and cell invasion assays.

Analysis of the defects in replicative DNA polymerases linked to cancer predisposition and tumour development

Brief overview: Recent findings have highlighted that defects in the DNA polymerases that are involved in bulk chromosome replication (polymerases delta and epsilon) contribute to the development of colorectal and endometrial cancers. The precise mechanisms by which they do this however remain unknown. In this project we will directly analyse the properties of one or more of the polymerase germline mutations which show this cancer predisposition and determine how they differ from the wild type protein. We hope that these analyses will shed light on the way that these particular mutations generate the genome instability.

To do this we will: make mutations in the large subunit of the human DNA polymerase epsilon equivalent to germline mutations that have been identified as causative for colorectal cancer; purify both wild type and mutant proteins; and compare the wild type and mutant proteins for biochemical properties such as defective proofreading, misincorporation of modified bases, misincorporation of riboNMPs, polymerase switching, polymerase stalling and need for fork restart.

Methods used for data collection: Basic molecular biology techniques (e.g. cloning , pcr, use restriction enzymes etc), basic protein analysis techniques (eg protein extraction, protein gels, protein blotting, immunoprecipitation), Sf9 cell culture, use of baculovirus vectors, design and analysis of enzyme assays.

Teaching is delivered through a variety of methods such as lectures, course-specific seminars and small group sessions. You will also participate in self-directed study and wider reading, as well as individual and group practical sessions. 

St George’s is the only university in the country to give you the opportunity to undertake a nine month research project in this topic. This will give you time to immerse yourself in detailed research, generating high quality data that could be impactful enough for publication. It’s incredibly valuable work and has led to many exciting discoveries and important breakthroughs.

You will have the freedom to choose from a wide-ranging list of projects, and to work in a vibrant research environment with world-renowned researchers. You will also work with their research teams, PhD students and post-doctoral scientists to gain insight and experience over the course of your project.

At St George’s, you will benefit from working as part of a small, close-knit team. Students, clinicians and researchers work happily and effectively together. St George’s is more a small community than a large anonymous institution, with all the advantages that brings for personal input and development.

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Teaching and learning methods

During the first term you will meet potential supervisors to familiarise yourself with the research activity within each pathway and to identify an appropriate project. Broadly speaking, your topic should be within the fields of biomedical sciences, healthcare, or health services and use appropriate scientific methods.

The self-directed component of your course includes the in-depth study of an area of interest, developing research and presentation skills, and gaining insight into possible careers.

Teaching for core modules is concentrated in the autumn term. Teaching for specialist modules takes place over the year. Throughout this time you will either be attending lectures or laboratory sessions on most days of the week. Students choose their projects and start with laboratory work from mid-October and complete their research by September.

Dissertation projects will involve the assembly, analysis and interpretation of data. Project titles and areas for research will be identified by module leaders and will relate to the pathway selected by the student.

(These modules are not available to be studied separately from the MRes.)

Assessments methods

Assessments are designed to help students with preparation for their dissertation. They help you review published work critically, use appropriate experimental design, and analyse experimental data. They also enable you to develop scientific writing and presentation skills.

All modules are assessed through written assignments or an oral presentation, with the exception of the statistics module which is assessed via examination. The optional modules require the submission of written reports. Following the research project, you will be asked to present a poster on your research.

If you want to pursue a career in biomedical research – whether in academia, industry or government – this course will open up a world of opportunities. Many St George’s graduates have gone on to work in a variety of exciting and fulfilling careers in the biotech industry.

This course is highly effective in accelerating your development within your general healthcare career. The depth and quality of the academic research that you will undertake on your nine month project will also put you in a good position to apply for a PhD.

All applications must be submitted through our online application system.

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How to apply

  1. Click ‘apply’ above.

  2. Create an account.

  3. Complete the application form and upload any relevant documents. You can save a partly completed form and return to it later. Please make sure you complete all sections. Please make sure that the information you provide is accurate, including the options you select in menus.

  4. Add pgadmissions@sgul.ac.uk to your address book to ensure you do not miss any important emails from us.

  5. When you have checked that your application is complete and accurate, click ‘submit’.

You can track your application online.

References

Please provide two references to support your application. These must be submitted using the Reference Request Form.

One must be a recent academic reference. The other should be either a second academic reference or a professional/employer reference. They should cover your suitability for the course and your academic ability. (See the form for more detail on what the references should cover.)

Your referees should know you well enough, in an official capacity, to write about you and your suitability for higher education. We do not accept references from family, friends, partners, ex-partners or yourself.

They should be dated no more than a year before the date of your application, and must be uploaded within two weeks of making your application.

Download the reference request form (Word)

Apply now

Duration

One year, full time

Application Deadline

30 June 2020

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