2020-21 Cancer Research UK Doctoral Studentship in Inequalities in Cancer Outcomes

We invite applications for a four-year Cancer Research UK-funded PhD studentship, starting from September 2020.

Project description

This studentship is offered as part of a five-year programme in Inequalities in Cancer Outcomes, also funded by Cancer Research UK (CRUK). The ultimate aim of this programme, which starts in June 2020, is to improve patient outcomes by influencing policy to reduce inequalities in cancer care and survival.

Building on 15 years of programmatic research, the new programme aims:

  • to examine the complex interplays between the patient characteristics and the components of the healthcare system which lead to inequalities in cancer care and cancer survival; and
  • to recommend and evaluate interventions to reduce these inequalities.

A significant part of the programme is devoted to methodological development, including the development of new or improved metrics and analytic methods, in order to address complex research questions.

Most of our research is based on observational, electronic health record data, from which detailed information are derived on the characteristics of the patients, their tumour, the treatment they received, the care provider, their vital status etc. Those data being observational, numerous challenges are faced when estimating the causal effect of potential interventions or treatment strategies on either binary or time-to-event outcomes. Those challenges include confounder adjustment and model selection, immortal-time bias, missing data as well as measurement error and misclassification. Moreover, the hierarchical structure of the data (e.g. measures at patient and hospital levels) requires specific methods. Finally, many exposures will have their effect mediated by other variables, thus complicating the interpretation of the results.

In this context, and to complement the programme of research being undertaken, we seek a full-time PhD student in biostatistics, with a particular interest in causal inference methods for time-to-event data.

Research environment

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is an internationally renowned postgraduate university with state-of-the-art facilities. LSHTM hosts epidemiologists and statisticians across numerous clinical and methodological disciplines, giving students access to a wealth of knowledge and advice.

Based within the Department of Non-communicable Disease Epidemiology, the student will work within a team of academics and support staff as part of the CRUK programme and other aligned research projects funded by ESRC, H2020 and others. Through research, collaborations and activities they aim to describe and explain differences in cancer outcomes at local, national and international levels. The results help policymakers to target investment in cancer services to improve cancer outcomes and reduce inequalities. This research faces multiple methodological challenges.

The team is actively involved in methodological innovation in survival analysis, and participates in the international methodological network CENSUR. Statistical software and other tools for cancer survival analysis developed have become widely used, and are freely accessible online.

More information about our current research can be found on the LSHTM Cancer Survival Group web pages.


Funding for this four-year award cover tuition fees (at the Home/EU level); and a student stipend at the rate set by CRUK (currently GBP 21,000 per year).

Eligibility requirements


Applicants must hold, or expect to obtain, a 1st or 2.1 honours undergraduate degree and preferably an MSc in epidemiology, medical statistics or equivalent awarded with good grades. Applicants with a combination of relevant qualifications and experience which demonstrates equivalent ability and attainment will also be considered.

Fee Status/Residency

This studentship award is only available to candidates who meet the eligibility requirements for Home/EU fees. (Please see the “Fee status” section of the 2020-21 Fees page on the School’s website for further details.) Applicants should note that British or EU citizenship does not guarantee fee status. To be assessed for Home/EU fee status applicants who are UK/EU citizens must also show that they have maintained ordinarily residence in the UK and/or EU over the past 3 years. (Proof of these requirements should be made clear through the study/employment sections of the application form.)

How to apply

Applicants may contact Dr Bernard Rachet for an informal discussion prior to submitting a formal application.

To apply, the following documents must be submitted by email to

  • Curriculum vitae (two pages) including details of your academic achievements to date and the names of two referees, one of whom should be able to comment on your academic ability.
  • A research proposal of up to 1,000 words based on the broad project description given above. This should identify a specific research question or hypothesis, summarise the relevant background information (with no more than 5 key references), and outline an appropriate methodology by which the question can be addressed.
  • Copy transcripts of your undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.
  • A covering letter saying why you are interested in undertaking a PhD in this subject area.
  • An initial eligibility form.

Please state clearly in the heading and text of your email that you are applying for a CRUK Inequalities in Cancer Outcomes Studentship.

Only applications in the correct format will be considered.

The deadline for applications is Monday 11 May 2020, 10.00 am BST. (This deadline has been extended: the original deadline was Monday 27 April 2020, 10.00 am BST.)