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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

MEDM5141M The Molecular Biology of Cancer

15 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Stephen Griffin

Taught: 1 Feb to 31 May View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

As the entry requirements of the student’s parent programme

Module replaces


This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will provide essential core understanding of Cancer Molecular Biology and how it relates to disease progression and patient outcomes. Particular focus will be placed upon the dysregulation of key cellular processes corresponding to the classical cancer hallmarks and how major signalling pathways are involved and interact in this process. This will in turn provide understanding of how targeted medicine is evolving to treat cancer on a patient specific basis. Teaching will be delivered by experts in relevant areas in the form of lectures and tutorials. Students will develop the molecular tools with which to unpick the applied aspects of cancer biology discussed in further modules.


The major objectives of this module are to gain understanding in:
1. How fundamental cell biology relates to malignant change
2. The stages of cancer causation, development and progression
3. Key pathways deregulated as cancers occur and progress
4. The impact of the sequencing revolution and cancer profiling on patient outcomes
5. Interactions between cancerous and other cells within the body

Learning outcomes
Upon completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of how fundamental cell biology is dysregulated in cancer
2. Show detailed understanding of the main pathways involved in malignant change and cancer progression and how these interact
3. Understand the complex cancer genotype and phenotype at the level of single cells and through tumour evolution
4. Describe how the immune system influences cancer progression
5. Relate the classical hallmarks of cancer to recent advances, including the development of targeted and/or stratified/personal therapy


The module will begin by describing the fundamental concepts of cancers. This begins by defining oncogenes and tumour suppressors, disease grade and stage, systemic disease and outcomes. It will then expand to cover the inception of malignancy in detail, based upon the concept of multi-step carcinogenesis and focusing upon pre-malignancy and cancer initiation. The concept of cancer initiating/stem cells will be discussed in relation to ongoing tumour evolution, resistance to therapy, and exploring how the differentiation phenotype of cells relates to tumour progression, invasion, and metastasis.

The next stage will focus upon cellular processes and the microenvironment influence cancer onset and progression. This will include cell cycle, genetic, epigenetic and metabolic changes in human cancers. It will also expand to include the tumour stroma, angiogenesis and hypoxia and also pro/anti-cancer immunological responses.

Finally, a group of lectures will focus upon disease-specific aspects of human cancer, including rare and childhood cancers, cancer subtypes and the molecular characteristics of tumours of unmet clinical need.

The series of lectures will in turn be complemented by tutorials running in parallel that focus upon key signalling pathways, cancer epidemiology and how the NGS revolution has changed the way we understand cancer today.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours115.00
Total Contact hours35.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

Students will be expected to conduct private reading related to each lecture (reading lists will be available), 3 hr per lecture, and for each tutorial (1 hr). Assessed coursework will require 37.5 hr of researching the relevant literature for the essay, as well as 7.5 hr preparation for the assessed presentation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will receive formative feedback during the planning stages for both the literature review and the assessed presentation involving one-to-one meetings with module staff.

They will also be provided with feedback following their assessed presentations and literature review.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Literature Review3000 words70.00
Oral Presentation15 minutes (+ questions)30.00
Literature ReviewDraft plan for literature review content and structure, with formative feedback given in small groups and opportunity to question tutor on specific points.0.00
Oral PresentationFormative feedback on draft plan for slides and talk content in one-to-one meeting.0.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Students will be asked to submit a plan for their literature review and presentation slides to module staff during the first 4 weeks of the task in order to receive feedback. These will be followed up by one-to-one meetings with staff in order to provide formative feedback towards the final assessed coursework. Compensation applies.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:42:42


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