BGM3024 : The Molecular Basis of Cancer

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


1. To inform students about the genetic and molecular basis of cancer
2. To examine the mechanisms of action of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes
3. To understand the basic mechanisms of apoptosis
4. To introduce current technologies used in cancer detection, dianostics and molecular pathology.
5. To discuss how experimental models and imaging techniques are being applied to advance our understanding of cancer.
6. To understand the basis of and problems associated with cancer treatments.

Original Summary:
Cancer is one of the major causes of mortality. This module provides a background to the biochemistry and molecular biology of cancer. The course introduces cancer as a genetic disease and how the onset of cancer is a multi-step process. It discusses the role of oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes particularly with respect to retinoblastoma and p53. An overview is given of familial cancers and examples of inherited predisposition to cancer. The roles of failures in the DNA repair mechanisms in causing cancer are also described. The factors that lead to metastasis (the development of secondary tumours at sites remote from the primary) are also discussed. Mention is made of experimental genetic models of tumour development and the advantages of transgenic animal models over cell lines highlighted.

An important part of this module is a discussion of the methods of anticancer treatment. Many anticancer drugs are themselves carcinogens. Some tumour cells can become drug resistant. The ways in which drugs can be targeted to the tumours are described. Examples and mechanisms of treatments based on growth factors and hormone mechanisms (e.g. breast cancer and prostate cancer) are mentioned, along with new approaches for tumour specificity: targeting surface receptors; targeting cytotoxic drugs to tumour cells; specific inhibition of key tumour enzymes (in leukaemia); gene array techniques for identifying new targets.

Many novel and powerful techniques are described that identify specific cancers and that more accurately define the gene alterations in individual tumours at the DNA, RNA and protein level.

Experimental in vitro and vivo models are detailed that provide an insight to how tumours orginate and metastasise throughout the body. Further application of alternative imaging techniques to visualise primary tumours and small metastic deposits in experimental models and humans is detailed.

In course assessment (worth 20% of the module mark) is an essay written after a tutorial discussion. The remaining assessment is by a written examination.

Outline Of Syllabus


Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture151:0015:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:001:00Introduction to extended essay.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching11:001:00Students have opportunity to attend four different seminar sessions, both 30minutes each.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study183:0083:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship


Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination602A80One essay from a choice of 2.
Exam Pairings
Module Code Module Title Semester Comment
BMS3012Cancer Biology and Therapy2N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M20Extended Essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

FMS Schools offering Semester One modules available as ‘Study Abroad’ will, where required, provide an alternative assessment time for examinations that take place after the Christmas vacation. Coursework with submissions dates after the Christmas vacation will either be submitted at an earlier date or at the same time remotely.

The form of assessment will not vary from the original.

Reading Lists