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Cancer Studies

We are pioneering an integrated approach to cancer research with the cancer charity Cancer Research UK by establishing a cross-disciplinary Cancer Research Centre.

The establishment in 2009 of the Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre reflects the high standard of basic and clinical science within Cardiff University and aims to deliver the knowledge that has been gained to patient benefit. Cardiff University has a prodigious track record in training graduate students who establish research careers in academia and industry throughout the world.

Programme aims

This PhD training programme aims to produce the future leaders of cancer research and is a central feature of the new Centre.

Medical research is entering a new phase of development that presents unparalleled research opportunities for basic science and its exploitation to benefit health.

To meet these challenges it is evident that researchers need to appreciate the basic, translational and clinical aspects of the topic. A broad grounding and awareness of emerging technologies, good skills in informatic and an understanding of the challenges in the clinic will be of key importance.

Cardiff University, with its significant strengths across these disciplines, is well placed to design and administer a research-training programme and develop cancer researchers, who will eventually specialise in specific topics in basic, translational or clinical research, yet will have an unrivalled understanding of the wider perspective of cancer research.

Distinctive features

Cardiff’s PhD brings together research groups that span different disciplines in cancer research to train and supervise postgraduate researchers and clinicians in areas that underpin the strategic goals of the Cardiff Cancer Research UK Centre.

All cancer studentship supervisors will have substantial financial support that has been won in peer-reviewed competitions. Thus, students have a great opportunity to take part in cancer research that is of the highest international standard, that is likely to result in publication in top scientific journals.

Candidates invited for interview will have the opportunity to meet a number of prospective supervisors and to choose the project that most suits their interest from a set of high quality scientific questions. During the first year you will develop research techniques and skills and will have the opportunity to attend training courses in molecular/biochemical techniques; informatics and pharmaceutics.

This will be accompanied by tutorials that will address specific areas of cancer and focus on new conceptual questions, recent progress or technical/clinical challenges. The objective is to make each postgraduate researcher aware of the current state of knowledge, technical limitations and emerging areas issues for future development. The programme is designed to ensure an excellent PhD experience and to prepare you for an outstanding future.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time
Qualification PhD
Application deadline(s) To be confirmed but usually in February

Our 4-year programme provides a broader and more in-depth practical and theoretical grounding in Cancer Biology than conventional 3-year programmes. During the first semester of Year 1 you will receive formal lectures in current research techniques and skills, including molecular/biochemical techniques; informatics, pharmaceutics, evidence analysis and clinical aspects of cancer. This will be accompanied by tutorials that will address specific areas of cancer and focus on new conceptual questions, recent progress or technical/clinical challenges. The objective is to make each postgraduate researcher aware of the current state of knowledge, technical limitations and clinical issues where future progress may be made.

In the second part of Year 1, you will take two three-month rotation projects in internationally renowned labs of your choice. During the lab rotations, you will carry out research, gain knowledge of the questions addressed by the lab, and acquire direct experience of the relevant techniques. Lab rotations will help you to reach an informed choice of the cancer biology area and supervisor you will choose for your full PhD project during Years 2 to 4. Throughout all the years you and your colleagues will participate in weekly seminars and presentations at journal clubs. The programme is designed to ensure an excellent PhD experience and to prepare you for an outstanding future.

Year one modules

The lecture modules in the first 16 weeks (up to the first laboratory rotation) will cover the areas of Molecular Genetics of Cancer, Signal Transduction in Cancer, Cell Biology, Bioinformatics, Epidemiology, Clinical Trials and the drug discovery process.  Skills-based training in Statistics and Research Techniques will complement the issue-focussed modules. Once laboratory rotations start in the spring term, the lecture component will be scaled down and will primarily involve the attendance of focused tutorials in current cancer research topics and the attendance of research seminars by visiting international speakers.

Module assessment

Lectures will be assessed in the form of compulsory essays. The research techniques in Biosciences lectures given on a Monday morning will require preparation for the Friday morning tutorials.

Additional courses

In addition to these time-tabled lectures, students will receive formal training on a number of essential topics (e.g., health and safety procedures in the various suites of laboratories, COSHH).  If required for subsequent projects, students will also complete an accredited Home Office training course (which is put on several times a year by Cardiff University).  This two-day course is followed by a formal examination, and is an essential pre-requisite for a Personal License.

Year one laboratory rotations

Each postgraduate researcher will undertake two three-month “rotation” projects starting in the Spring Term that will be selected from a Project List.  Each three-month project will entail preliminary research work to confirm the feasibility of the project.  At the end of each rotation project the postgraduate researcher will prepare a short report, along the lines of a Project Grant proposal that will include continued project feasibility, description of preliminary work, and explanation of a potential work plan for continuation of the project for a further three years together with timelines, contingency plans and costings. Each project report will be assessed by the Training Committee and used to monitor student progress.  At the end of Year 1, the student will select one project for their PhD research (or MPhil/MD) to be continued in Years 2-4 (or year 2 for MPhil/MD), assuming that its plan, feasibility and budget is agreed by the student, supervisor, co-supervisor and Training Committee. In addition, the student will give a brief, PowerPoint presentation of the selected project (10 mins, followed by a discussion).  The session of presentations will be attended by the Directors of Postgraduate research, the other PhD students, and the rotation supervisors.

The student will then receive formal feedback on the report and the presentation by the CR-UK Training Committee. Presentations will be graded as either ‘Accept', 'Minor Revision', 'Major Revision' or 'Reject', and feedback provided on each aspect of the presentation.  The two rotation projects will provide invaluable first-hand experience of research techniques, a taster for specific research issues, and provide a method of assessment of progress.

The completion of the rotations and their associated reports and presentations take the student to a crucial decision point at the end of year 1 when the student and potential supervisor (s) will decide, by mutual agreement, on a suitable research project for a PhD.  Following the agreement of the Teaching Committee, the student will undertake work leading to a conventional PhD during years 2-4. Note, the supervisors for Year 2-4 need not come from the mini-projects (laboratory rotation), although this would normally be expected.

Years two to four

During the first week of Year 2, the student, the Programme Director and Deputy and the prospective supervisors will agree on a research plan. The principal supervisor will determine the ‘Home School’ of the student for Years 2-4.  Prior to that, the Home Schools for all students will be the School of Biosciences (Home  School of the Programme director and Personal tutor of the students) to foster a sense of identity and to provide a strong, peer-support network.

Non-clinical postgraduate researchers will pursue a conventional PhD, submitting within 3 years (or possibly MPhil at end of year 2). Clinical students will complete a 1-year or 3-year project leading to a MPhil/ MD or a PhD, respectively. One primary project proposer will act as the principal supervisor and students will be subject to the local processes of student monitoring of that supervisor’s ‘home’ School.  Each student will give an oral presentation of their progress annually, most likely at a symposium organised by the CR-UK Centre Training Committee.  Progress will also be monitored throughout Years 2-4, via an annual written report and interview.  It is envisaged that postgraduate researchers will progress from MPhil to PhD study status at the end of Year 2.

UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


This programme is subject to funding from Cancer Research UK, for which we expect to have confirmation by December 2016 for October 2017 entry.

See our latest PhD studentships and projects and find out more about other funding opportunities.

Tuition fees

Students from the UK

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Applicants interested in this fully-funded PhD studentship should apply for the Doctor in Philosophy with an October 2017 start date.

Applicants must also provide CV and contact details of two referees.

Research proposal

In the research proposal section of your application, please provide a one-page summary of your research interests and academic background, and how you believe they fit into a PhD in Cancer Studies.

Science graduates

First or Upper Second Class in a relevant area (e.g. biochemistry, anatomy, genetics, physiology, natural sciences). This is a training doctorate, previous research experience is not essential.

Clinical fellows

Trainees should be interested in a clinical academic career and have:

  • a current Core or Specialty Training Programme position
  • evidence of high academic distinction and potential (e.g. First or Upper Second Class in BSc, research papers etc.)
  • research experience within an undergraduate BSc or MSc project
  • evidence of achievement of Core/Specialty Training Competencies by the time of appointment (ARCP or RITA)

English language requirements


Administrative contact(s)

Jo-Ann Hall


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See the range of PhD studentships and projects currently available.

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