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This course is intended as an introduction to, or refresher on, key biology concepts that are necessary for the study of cancer. This course is available for anyone undertaking a postgraduate course (MSc or DPhil)  in the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford. 


 On completion of this course, students will be able to: 

  • Explain the principles of biological organisation, including the structure and function of cells and tissues
  • Describe cellular processes including metabolic pathways and mechanisms of cell division
  • Explain the molecular nature of DNA and proteins, including how molecular structure governs function
  • Describe the role of the immune system, including innate and adaptive responses


This is a self-paced, online course made up of seven virtual lessons. Each lesson includes several short recorded videos to explain key concepts, some additional reading, and some quiz questions to check your knowledge.

The lessons included are as follows: 

  1. DNA
  2. Proteins
  3. The Cell Cycle and its Regulation
  4. Cell Metabolism
  5. Tissue Structure
  6. The Immune System
  7. Oncology: The Basics

course access

This course is only available for students undertaking a postgraduate course (MSc or DPhil)  in the Department of Oncology at the University of Oxford.  Students on our MSc courses will be automatically enrolled on this course and can access it via Canvas. Students on  DPhil courses can request access by emailing the Graduate Studies Administrator. 

This course is available from September to July each year. It goes offline for the summer to allow updates to be made and new students to be added for the following academic year. 

For students on the MSc in Medical Physics with Radiobiology, this short course is a compulsory part of your studies, and you must pass an assessment on the content of the course in order to meet the requirements for Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) accreditation.