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2019/20 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MEDM5221M Cancer Biology and Molecular Oncology

15 creditsClass Size: 35

Module manager: Dr Mihaela Lorger

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Pre-requisite qualifications

As per programme entry qualifications

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will provide insights into the molecular and cell biology of cancers and into how this knowledge can be harnessed to allow therapeutic opportunities. Particular areas of focus will be the function of the key cancer-related pathways and cellular processes, the molecular mechanisms of pathway deregulation, and the targeting of these pathways in therapy. Teaching will be delivered by current experts in each area, including for example Prof Sir Alex Markham (former Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences) and Prof Peter Selby (Cancer Research UK Trustee and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences), and will be informed by the state-of-the-art research of the individual tutors


The roles of the main cancer-related molecular pathways and biological processes;
How these pathways are deregulated in cancer and how points of deregulation can be targeted therapeutically;
The process of cancer therapeutics discovery and development;
The use of molecular markers to provide individualised cancer therapies and improve cancer outcomes.

Learning outcomes
1- Demonstrate advanced knowledge of the main molecular pathways that are commonly deregulated in cancer;
2- Analyse the complexity of the cancer phenotype;
3- Appraise the varied ways in which key cancer pathways are deregulated, and explain why the roles of many of the changes that occur in cancers remain unclear;
4- Critically explore how novel cancer therapeutic opportunities are identified, how therapeutics are designed currently and how this will change in the future;
5- Critically evaluate the diagnostic pathway, and how molecular phenotyping of patients and their tumours can allow more appropriate patient selection for the therapies available, leading to improved patient outcomes.


The module will start with an overview of the characteristics of cancer cells based on the six classic hallmarks of cancer. The emphasis will be on the key molecular changes that are being, or could be, exploited for therapy or diagnosis. The molecular mechanisms that allow these changes will be described, highlighting how the expression of individual genes, or the function of whole networks can be deregulated in cancer, from genomic or epi-genetic changes, through transcriptional or post-transcriptional control of expression, to post-translational modifications and protein-protein interactions.

This background will lead on to discussion of the purpose of Molecular Medicine in cancer therapy, and how molecular understanding can be harnessed to improve cancer outcomes.

This will be followed by individual seminars focusing on specific cancer types or individual technologies for analytical or therapeutic approaches. Cancer type seminars will investigate how Molecular Medicine has and will impact on understanding of and the therapy for brain cancers, sarcomas, and blood cancers. Technology-based seminars will cover the sequencing revolution, the role of mathematical modelling, the importance of molecular pathology, and viral or stromal therapies.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours120.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students are provided with literature that will help them to gather the required background knowledge (see reading list). Students will carry out extensive reading and analysis for their assessed literature reviews and their presentations (~30h for each). Students will also be expected to read and critically appraise published papers for discussion in tutorials (~2.5h per tutorial).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will be encouraged to question and participate during seminars, allowing teaching staff to give feedback, and to informally monitor student levels and progress. Contribution to tutorials will be monitored. Students will be given a formative feedback in relation to their literature review at an early phase of the writing.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Literature Review3,000 words60.00
Oral Presentation12 minutes (+ questions)40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Compensation applies

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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