Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 2 x 1 hour lectures per week


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1000 word essay  Novel synthesis of 5 key cancer papers in the style of Trends in Genetics  30%
Semester Exam 2 Hours   70%
Supplementary Exam 2 Hours   100%

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to.

  • Understand the cellular events associated with the formation of cancers; unrestrained growth, loss of contact inhibition and metasasis.
  • Understand some molecular events associated with the transformation of normal cells to cancers.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of the most widely used chemotherapeutic approaches to suppress tumour growth.
  • Appreciate how life-style choices increase the risk of the development of cancer and evaluate the impact of cancer, in terms of human health and resource allocation in human society.


The course will follow three themes; what is cancer, how does cancer come about and the therapeutic treatment of cancer, together with how life style choices which foster carcinogenesis.

What is cancer?

We will consider the cytology and physiology on the normal cell as compared to cancerous cells. Different types of neoplasms (abnormal growths e.g. warts, benign and malign cancers) originating from different tissues will be discuss. The characteristics of cancerous cells will be outlined; unrestrained cellular growth and the lack of contact inhibition. We will also outline the formation of secondary cancers following angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) and metastasis (the systemic dispersal of cancer cells).

What causes cancer?

Cancer is primarily a genetic disease. Cancer cells arise from the gene mutations and/ or chromosomal abnormalities which change the transcription or function of certain 'rancer? genes known as oncogenes. The derivation and function of some example oncogenes will be considered.
Oncogenes which perturb the cell cycle and the patterns of cell death 'rpoptosis? will be discussed, with a special focus on the alterations in intra-(and sometime inter-) cellular communications i.e. cell signaling pathways.

How can cancer be avoided or suppressed?

The media is always quoting studies which suggest that different life-style choices promote cancer. The rationale behind certain important risk factors, smoking, sunbathing and obesity will be explored.
Once tumours have formed, chemotherapy, along with surgery and radiotherapy are the main methods using to suppress their growth. The mode of action of some key anti-cancer drugs will be discussed along with problems of adverse side-effects and tumour resistance.

Brief description

Cancer Biology will outline the cellular and genetic events associated with the development of cancer. The mechanisms of some chemotherapeutic drugs will be explained. Also discussed will be the risks associated with certain life style choices.


Cancer is a major disease of humans, and has a profound influence upon human health and the allocation of human resources towards medical research. It occurs following genetic changes which impact on gene expression and cell signaling. These change whole cell physiology resulting in unrestrained cellular growth and often systemic dispersal (metastasis). Tumour suppression is a major chemotherapeutic aim and is the focus of much drug research. The module will therefore act as a vehicle to develop a clear understanding of the principles of genetics, cell signaling and drug action which will serve and as a foundation for third year modules.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication * Read in different contexts and for different purposes * Write for different purposes and audiences * Listen effectively
Improving own Learning and Performance * Show awareness of own learning styles, personal preferences and needs, and barriers to learning * Devise and apply realistic learning and self management strategies
Information Technology * Use a range of commonly used software packages * Prepare and input data * Manage storage systems * Use email /internet appropriately and effectively
Personal Development and Career planning * Develop awareness of personal skills, beliefs and qualities in relation to course/career progression * Plan and prepare for future course/career * Market skills, experience and achievement effectively on paper and in person * Understand and use a range of job search strategies
Subject Specific Skills A number of vocational opportunities will arise from the knowledge base and work experience

Reading List

Recommended Text
Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K. & Walker, P. (2002) Molecular biology of the Cell Garland Science Primo search Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, S.L., Matsudaira, P., Baltimore, D. & Darnell, J. (1999) Molecular Cell Biology WH Freeman Primo search Percorino, L. (2005) Molecular Biology of Cancer 1st Oxford Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 5