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pre course material

In September before the course start in October, you will have access to a series of short, self-paced, online courses.  Completion of these is not compulsory, but they are there to help you brush up on your background knowledge and set you up for the start of the MSc course. 

Available short courses are: 

  • Underpinning Biology for Cancer Science
  • Introductory Physics for Radiobiology
  • Fundamentals of Human Anatomy

MSc course MODULES

1. Physics of Radiation Interactions

Module Leads - Dr Mark Hill & Dr Tom Whyntie 

This module will cover the physics of ionising radiation relevant to its interactions with macromolecules such as DNA, as well as cells and humans in the context of medical imaging, radiation oncology, and radiation protection.

2. Molecular Radiation Biology

Module Leads - Prof . Kristijan Ramadan 

This module will cover the types of molecular damage caused by ionizing radiation, how they can be detected, and the cellular responses to such lesions at the molecular level, including cell cycle regulation, DNA repair and apoptosis. Further, we will consider how these molecular processes can promote tumorigenesis and how they are being exploited to target cancer. Understanding the evolutionarily conserved biological mechanisms described in this module will provide a molecular underpinning of how normal and cancer cells respond to radiation.

3. Radiobiology of Cells and Tissues

Module Leads - Dr Ketan Shah & Dr Monica Olcina del Molino 

This module will discuss the responses to radiation at cell and tissue level. It will cover the response of cells to irradiation, the ways of characterising the response as a function of dose, radiation type, the effects of physical modifiers of response (dose-rate, fractionation) and chemical modifiers (oxygen, radical scavengers). The module will then go on to discuss how these principles are manifested in clinical cases, using both normal tissue and tumour examples.  Students will learn about how fractionated radiotherapy schedules influence tissue responses, and the models that apply the kinetics of DNA damage and repair via cellular damage and regeneration, to normal tissue dysfunction and tumour control. We will also consider the recovery of tissue function and viability, as well as its implications for reirradiation. The module will cover the application of dose models to real-world radiation oncology treatment schedules, and address comparisons between the differing schedules that have been developed based on radiation biology. 

4. Tumour Immuno-Microenvironment and Radiation Response

Module Leads - Dr Ejung Moon & Prof. Ester Hammond

This module will cover aspects of the tumour microenvironment and specifically how these factors influence the response to radiotherapy. Lectures will explain the physiology that underpins normal oxygen delivery and metabolism, and the abnormal pathological processes that lead to the development of tumour hypoxia. The effects that tumour hypoxia has on radiotherapy treatment and patient outcomes will be outlined, along with strategies that have been developed to overcome tumour hypoxia in the clinic. Lectures will introduce students to the local immune system and concepts in cancer immunology as they relate to the radiation response, including the local immune response and the abscopal effect.

5. Hazards of Radiation

Module Leads - Dr Liz Ainsbury & Dr Zhe Wang 

This module will cover the basic biology underpinning the short-term effects (e.g. the Acute Radiation Syndromes) and long-term risks (e.g. cancer) associated with exposure of the human body to ionising radiation exposure, in addition to the radiobiological and medical considerations required to deal with accidental radiation exposures. It will go on to discuss methods and potential problems that arise in using epidemiological studies to determine the consequences of exposure to radiation, including an overview of the major studies that have been carried out to date and of some of the current issues in radiation epidemiology. The module will address radiation protection in medicine, for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of unsealed and sealed sources. 

6. Clinical Radiation Oncology

Module Leads - Prof. Tim Maughan & Dr Juliet Brock

This module will focus on clinical aspects of the use of radiation with a general introduction to the principles of the use of conventional external beam radiotherapy in the management of cancer. This will be illustrated with examples of its use in a few common cancers as well as discussion of the late side effects of radiotherapy treatment. The module will go on to teach how the use of radiation has diversified, including the long-standing use of brachytherapy (exemplified by the treatment of cervical cancer) and recent developments in stereotactic radiotherapy, image-guided radiotherapy, proton beam therapy and ultra-fast delivery of radiation (FLASH). The student will understand the clinical application of radiotherapy, the constraints on that use and the technological developments which have been and continue to be developed to optimise the application of radiation for clinical use. 

7. Combination Therapies and Theranostics

Module Leads - Prof.  Katherine Vallis & Prof. Geoff Higgins

This module will cover the scientific rationale for multimodality treatments that include radiation therapy. The scientific and clinical evidence that underpins the combination of cytotoxics, immunotherapeutics, viral/gene-based agents and molecularly targeted drugs (including DNA repair inhibitors) with radiotherapy will be covered. The module will also cover past and current efforts to develop pharmaceutics designed to be used in combination with radiation for the purpose of rasdiosensitisation of cancer cells. The module will also cover the principles and practise of radionuclide therapy and how radionuclide therapy is incorporated into multimodality protocols.   

8. Translational Research Methods and Applications

Module Leads - Dr Tom Whyntie & Dr Elaine Johnstone

This module will provide students with the techniques and tools needed to meet the unique needs of conducting research in the fields of Cancer Science, Radiobiology, or Medical Physics.  There are many field-specific considerations that they will need to know to successfully and responsibly conduct research, largely relating to the fact that many studies will involve clinical trials and potentially sensitive patient data. 

This course is reviewed annually and subject to minor changes in response to feedback and evaluation.


TEACHINg and resources

Each module is led by two module leads plus additional lecturers for specialist input. Learning is facilitated through a mixture of lectures, small group tutorials, laboratory practicals, demonstrations, visits, and one-to-one supervisions. Teaching is in-person (both lectures and tutorials), with some exceptions due to travel and expert availability.

You will be given access to state-of-the-art technology to support your learning including the University’s virtual learning environment (VLE), Canvas. Lecture materials will be recorded and will be available for you to re-watch in your own time, alongside recommended reading and other activities. 

Teaching takes place in the Oncology Education Hub, which includes dedicated lecture and tutorial rooms at the heart of the department, alongside an open plan, unassigned seating workspace for masters and first year DPhil students.