This page contains information on the specialty of clinical oncology, a higher specialty recruiting to HST-level vacancies. Clinical oncology is not a medical specialty, however does accept applicants from medical training backgrounds.

Please note - clinical oncology is not participating in the nationally coordinated HST recruitment process

Recruitment to clinical oncology is being coordinated by London and KSS (LaKSS) Recruitment.

The specialty

Clinical oncology is a dynamic and rewarding specialty which combines a high level of patient contact with the opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge technologies and research into new treatments.

Clinical oncologists are specialists in non-surgical cancer treatments, ie radiotherapy and systemic therapies (chemotherapy, biological therapy and hormone therapy), and they work within multidisciplinary teams to formulate a patient’s treatment plan.

Clinical oncology trainee characteristics

Clinical oncology will therefore appeal to trainees who have:

  • a desire to achieve the best outcomes for patients with cancer

  • good communication skills

  • an ability to work within a team (liaising with surgeons, physicians, palliative care physicians, radiologists, pathologists, specialist nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals)

  • an interest in pushing forward the boundaries of cancer treatments with clinical, translational or laboratory research.

Working in clinical oncology

Trainees in clinical oncology study all types of cancer treatment, but increasingly as consultants they specialise in one or more tumour sites.

Clinical oncologists assess the relative merits of different cancer treatments for individual patients, based on the tumour site and spread, any co-existing medical conditions and the patient’s wishes, before planning and delivering treatment.

The recent success of treatments has led to an increasing number of cancer survivors which has emphasised the importance of minimising long term side effects and optimising quality of life.

Clinical oncologists need to understand the scientific principles that underpin the treatments they prescribe, and their training includes the pathology and biology of cancers, the pharmacology of systemic cancer therapies, radiation physics and statistics.

Cancer treatments continue to advance rapidly, and clinical oncologists also need to interpret research developments in order to formulate evidence based treatment decisions. Some clinical oncologists pursue an academic career increasing understanding of how cancers behave or leading in clinical research.

Cancer affects people of any age or demographic, and one third of individuals will be diagnosed during their lifetime. Clinical oncology departments are therefore found throughout the UK and are based in cancer centres.

After completing core medical training, clinical oncology is entered at ST3 level. The clinical oncology curriculum is overseen by the Royal College of Radiologists, and the training typically lasts five years.

Many trainees undertake additional out of programme experiences, for example gaining a higher degree such as an MD or PhD, or studying and researching advanced radiotherapy techniques in fellowship programmes in the UK or abroad.

The opportunity to deliver holistic non-surgical treatment to cancer patients, along with the rapid pace of developments in understanding the biology of cancer, the emergence of new technologies to target treatments more precisely than before, and the collective will of health care professionals and the public to tackle this disease mean there has never been a better time to become a clinical oncologist.

Further information