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Introduction to Cancer Biology

3rd term
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
3 credits
Academic Year:
2020 - 2021
Instruction Method:
Asynchronous Online
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Grading Restriction:
Letter Grade or Pass/Fail
Course Instructor:
  • Heidi DiFrancesca
Heidi DiFrancesca

Introduction to Online Learning is required prior to participating in any of the School's Internet-based courses.


Cancer is defined as uncontrollable cell growth. The complexities of the causes and the different types of cells that give rise to this disease have underscored the need for a better understanding of the basic biology of cancer. Advancements in basic and biomedical research have led to more effective treatments, enhanced detection methods, and better prevention strategies. This course aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the biology and pathology of cancer.

Educates students on the principles of cancer biology, including the various genetic and molecular changes normal cells undergo during transformation into malignant cancer cells. To this end, students are helped to gain an understanding of cellular and molecular mechanisms that go awry, thereby providing optimal conditions for cancer. We explore the role of mutations in cancer cells, and how they lead to the dysregulation of essential biological properties like programmed cell death, cell proliferation and differentiation. Focuses on the interface of cancer and medicine. Compares classical treatment methods with newer treatment strategies like targeted therapies. We also explore the challenges associated with diagnosing cancers, as well as ways in which to prevent cancer.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify the common cellular and molecular mechanisms that are deregulated in cancerous cells, and how their deregulation contribute to the development of cancer
  2. Explain the role gene mutations play in the development of cancer
  3. Explain how cancer manifests itself in the human body
  4. Analyze the biological rationale for both traditional chemotherapies and novel targeted therapeutic approaches and describe both the benefits and limitations of each option
  5. Describe an oncogene and why it is important in cancer development
  6. Explain the cell cycle, its regulation, and how cell dysfunction can lead to cancer
  7. Describe the function of tumor suppressor genes
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 20% Knowledge Check Quizzes
  • 35% Midterm
  • 45% Final Exam

Enrollment Restriction:

BMB students should be restricted from taking this course. Undergraduate students are required to obtain instructor permission to register.

Instructor Consent:

Consent required for some students

Consent Note:

BMB students should be restricted from taking this course. Undergraduate students are required to obtain instructor permission to register.

For consent, contact: