Biology 433

BIOL 433: Cancel Biology

Prerequisites: A grade of "C" or better in BIOL 131, BIOL 132, BIOL 231, BIOL 232, and CHEM 102.  BIOL 432 recommended but not required.

Credit Hours: (3)

The course focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms that lead to cancer, including the role of oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, signal transduction pathways, DNA repair, angiogenesis, and metastasis in tumor progression. Identification of risk factors for cancer, and developments in cancer diagnosis and therapeutics will also be discussed.


Detailed Description of Course

Exact topics will vary as new research in cell biology and cancer evolves. Generally the following major topics will be covered:

The nature of cancer

                Occurrence of cancer in metazoans

Types of cancer

                Transmissible cancers

Differences between cancer cells and normal cells

Cellular oncogenes

                Growth factors and their receptors

                Signal transduction pathways

Tumor suppressor genes

                pRb and the cell cycle regulation

                p53 and apoptosis

Cell immortalization and tumorigenesis

Cancer stem cells

DNA repair, genomic integrity, and the development of cancer



Identifying the causes of cancer

The treatment of cancer

                Chemotherapy and radiation

                Development of targeted therapies

Tumor immunology

There will be no lab component; instead the instructor will emphasize experiments that led to significant advances in the understanding of cancer, and interpretation of results from modern research. Some techniques that will be explored include:

• Study designs for identifying the risk factors for cancer; the strengths and pitfalls of inferring cause-and effect relationships from epidemiological data.

• The role of imaging techniques, genomic analysis, and proteomic analysis in supplementing traditional methods of cancer screening and diagnosis.

• Laboratory studies to investigate carcinogenicity and drug efficacy in vitro and in vivo, and strategies for clinical trials in drug development.

• Structure activity relationships of drugs and carcinogens.

• Viral vectors and adoptive cell transfer.


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course will be primarily based on lecture, supplemented with discussion and student presentations. Analysis and interpretation of data from modern cell biology and cancer research will be emphasized. Case studies will be presented in some instances to emphasize the links between basic research and clinical applications. Homework problems may be assigned.  A textbook may be assigned, some reading in the primary literature will be expected, and essays will be assigned to develop scientific writing strategies and skills.


Student Goals and Objectives of the Course

As cell biology and cancer research are rapidly developing fields, specific learning goals may change from semester to semester.  Having successfully completed the course, the student will be able to describe an overview of our understanding of cancer.  This may include, but not necessarily be limited to, being able to…

• Explain the importance of cancer studies in the biology of metazoans in general, not just in humans.

• Explain the nature of transmissible cancers.

• Explain the role of gene mutation in the development of cancer, and describe the evidence that cancer is a genetic disease at the cellular level.

• Explain mechanisms of DNA repair, and describe how loss of genomic integrity is correlated with cancer development.

• Explain how cell division, apoptosis, and differentiation are regulated to control cell numbers in tissues, and describe how cancer is manifested by loss of cell cycle regulation leading to uncontrolled increases in cell number.

• Describe the signal transduction pathways involved in the stimulation or inhibition of cell division and apoptosis, and explain how these are defective in cancer cells.

• Describe the role of oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, and explain patterns of inheritance for familial cancers.

• Explain the role of stem cells in normal tissues and cancer.

• Describe cell senescence and immortalization and explain the role of telomeres.

• Describe metastasis, and explain how regulation of cell adhesion, cell motility, and extracellular matrix remodeling play a role at the molecular level.

• Describe angiogenesis and explain its significance in cancer development.

• Explain how infection and inflammation is correlated with cancer.

• Explain the role of epidemiology in identifying the causes of cancer.

• Explain how environmental factors including diet, smoking, alcohol, occupation, and reproductive life influence cancer susceptibility, and how this information can be used to prevent cancer.

• Describe the major types of cancer, and explain the role of pathology and cancer staging in diagnosis.

• Explain the features of cancer that lead to high mortality rates.

• Explain the rationale of traditional cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy.

• Explain how our detailed understanding of molecular cell biology is being used to develop novel targeted therapeutic approaches, and describe the benefits and limitations of these approaches.

• Describe the role of the immune system in cancer, and explain the rationale for immunotherapies to treat cancer

• Describe strategies for drug development and clinical trials.

• Explain ways that genomic technologies are providing new insights into cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

• Use online databases such as the Cancer Genome Anatomy Project, and Globocan, to analyze molecular data and population-based statistics.


Assessment Measures

Appropriate assessment measures may include objective examinations, essay examinations, written papers, and student presentations.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval

March 6, 2012