MPhil (Cancer Science)

Profs Vikash Sewram (Director: ACI), Jimmy Volmink (Dean: FMHS) and Usuf Chikte (Head: Department of Global Health Sciences) with the first group of fellows doing the MPhil Cancer Sciences. Lauren Philips (MPhil programme co-ordinator) is at the back.

With the introduction of the new MPhil (Cancer Science) degree under the auspices of the African Cancer Institute (ACI) within the Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University (SU) recently became the first academic institution in Africa to offer a structured cancer-science programme of this nature.

In many countries, cancer is one of the leading causes of mortality and, worldwide, cancer cases are expected to increase from 14.1 million in 2012 to 22.2 million by 2030. These statistics point to a major epidemic that requires a co-ordinated response – one that effectively targets research gaps and which also succeeds in establishing sustainable cancer research programmes.

While our understanding of cancer has increased significantly over the past few decades, cancer knowledge is still under-represented in academic curriculums on the continent, says Prof Vikash Sewram, Director of the ACI.

The ACI was launched in 2013 to consolidate the university’s cancer and cancer-related research activities, with the goal to develop a critical mass of scientists, clinicians, postgraduate students and fellows that will assist in mobilising the cancer-research agenda in Africa. The new MPhil (Cancer Science) programme, launched in January 2017, was the next necessary step.

The interdisciplinary programme, which offers postgraduate training to all cadres of health personnel, is being offered on a full-time basis over a minimum period of 18 months. Seven students are currently enrolled – three from South Africa and four from other African countries. Four are clinicians with oncology expertise, one student is a registered nurse, and the others have a background in the basic sciences.

During the first academic year, the students are expected to attain the required insights into cancer biology and tumour physiology. Topics covered also include planning cancer research studies, selecting the correct research methods, understanding the role of infection in cancer risk in Africa, the importance of nutrition in cancer survivorship, the principles of cancer chemotherapy and the role of the environment on public health.

Students are also exposed to biostatistics for analysis of cancer data, and expected to plan their research projects in the second semester of the first year. International students are encouraged to identify a research topic of relevance to their home country.

Interested in pursuing the degree?
Candidates who hold any of the following qualifications can apply for the 2018 programme:

  • An MB,ChB or equivalent degree.
  • A four-year professional bachelor’s degree in a health-related discipline.
  • A BSc Hons degree in Medical Sciences obtained via Stellenbosch University or another recognised university. Or, alternatively, an equivalent qualification approved by the Senate.

For more information, contact Prof Vikash Sewram at