Conference Report: The University of Cambridge’s MB/PhD Symposium 2020

Stethoscope on a table

In 2019, Cancer Research UK awarded the University of Manchester a Clinical Academic Training Award to deliver a step change in the training of prospective clinician researchers. Part of the award was to fund an MB-PhD programme and integrate PhD research into medical training.


Now in its second year, our MB-PhD scheme enables University of Manchester MBChB students, and those on the University of St Andrews Manchester Medicine course pathway, to undertake the vocational training of a medical degree in tandem with the research expertise of a PhD in Cancer Sciences, leading to the awards of MBChB and PhD. The first cohort of CRUK Manchester Centre MB-PhD students began their intercalated PhDs in October 2020.


As part of our outreach activities and commitment to training the next generation of clinician scientists, we were pleased to take University of Manchester Medical School students and existing MB-PhD students to the University of Cambridge’s MB/PhD Symposium for a second year in a row. With the Symposium moving to virtual attendance due to COVID-19, eleven of our students were able to attend, along with Dr Georgina Binnie, Manchester Cancer Research Centre Recruitment and Training Officer.


The Symposium began with an introduction by Professor Stefan Marciniak, MB/PhD Programme Director at the University of Cambridge and included engaging talks from their 2017 intake students. During a short break, we listened to innovative poster presentations, before talks from Dr Diana Wood, Clinical Dean at the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine and a closing keynote from Professor Maha Barakat, Board Chair of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria.


Following the Symposium, we reached out to University of Cambridge and University of Manchester students to learn more about their attendance at this event.

Shoko Hirosue

University of Cambridge MB/PhD Oral Presenter, MRC Cancer Unit.

Presentation Title: “Single Cell RNA-seq Analysis of ccRCC Using Inducible Pax8-CreERT2, Vhlfl/fl, Pbrm1fl/fl Mouse Model”.

My name is Shoko Hirosue and I am in my 3rd year of my PhD. My project title is “Tracking phenotypic evolution of early clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC)”. I used single cell RNA-seq technology and inducible VHL/PBRM1 knock out mice to track the molecular mechanisms of early kidney cancer development. Single cell analysis has shown activation of various transcription factors which may have a role in the transition to the cancerous state.


I was interested in research even before getting into medical school and developed this further through subsequent projects. The bioinformatics skills I have learned during my PhD will undoubtedly be helpful in research I hope to undertake in future. Participation in the MB/PhD programme has also given me opportunities to write papers and present my work which will be invaluable as a research clinician.

Manchester Cancer Research Centre | Conference Report: The University of Cambridge’s MB/PhD Symposium 2020

Andrew Chai

University of Manchester MBChB student, Year 2.

My name is Andrew Chai and I am in the 2nd year of my MBChB undergraduate degree. Having attended last year’s Cambridge Symposium, and spoken with various researchers at the CRUK Manchester Centre, I came to this event with a strong interest in applying for the Manchester MB-PhD programme. One of the main things I was hoping to learn from the event was how the students undergoing the program were finding the experience of diving into lab-based research after years of studying on the medical degree.


It was inspiring to see how engaged and enthusiastic all the students were about their research during their presentations. They all seemed incredibly committed and eager to explore the opportunities provided by their MB/PhD. In combining this with what came across as great supervisor-student relationships, they really showed that the program is one that gives back as much as a student is willing to put into it. That’s something I very much look forward to partaking in at Manchester.

Manchester Cancer Research Centre | Conference Report: The University of Cambridge’s MB/PhD Symposium 2020


Applications are currently open for MB-PhD intercalated PhD projects to begin at the CRUK Manchester Centre in October 2021. Further details are available online, and  supervisor videos discussing their 2021 projects are available to watch on the Manchester Cancer Research Centre’s YouTube page.


For any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Georgina Binnie, MCRC Recruitment and Training Officer on

PhD Opportunities

Discover more about the postgraduate research programmes available in Manchester, including laboratory-based research projects that are at the cusp of scientific innovation, and the integrated MB-PhD programme, which integrates research into a medicine course.


Find out more about our MB-PhD programme, enabling aspiring clinician scientists to undertake medical degree training in tandem with the research expertise of a PhD.