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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Deanery of Biomedical Sciences : Biomedical Sciences

Postgraduate Course: Molecular Biology of Cancer I: The hallmarks of cancer (BIME11181)

Course Outline
SchoolDeanery of Biomedical Sciences CollegeCollege of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course will introduce students to the phenotypic and molecular characteristics of cancer through studies on the 6 original hallmarks. How these hallmarks influence disease aetiology and treatment will be discussed using molecular and clinical examples linked to common cancer types. In addition, a clinical overview of cancer will be delivered in week1 to provide the students with a framework in which to study the molecular biology of the disease.
Course description 1) Academic description
Over the past 20 years our understanding of the molecular and phenotypic events that lead to the development of cancer and our appreciation of the tumour microenvironment have been significantly expanded. The capabilities acquired during the multistep development of tumours have been defined as a series of "hallmarks", in an attempt to rationalize and manage the complexities of neoplastic disease in humans and other cancer prone species. Acceptance of the widespread applicability of the hallmarks concept in cancer is increasingly likely to affect the development of new means to treat a wide range of cancer types.

Students will gain a critical understanding of how a multistep disease process can be "reduced" into component processes that are characteristic of the disease but which can contribute to a greater or lesser extent dependent on tumour-type and -environment. Here we will focus on understanding how the original 6 hallmarks of cancer drive the disease and how they may form an opportunity for diagnosis and therapeutic interventions.

2) Outline content
The hallmarks of cancer were originally defined by Hanahan and Weinburg in their seminal paper (in 2000). The core properties of cancer development were defined at that time as (1) sustaining proliferative signalling, (2) evading growth suppressors, (3) activating invasion and metastasis, (4) enabling replicative immortality, (5) inducing angiogenesis, and (6) resisting cell death. (Subsequently the list was expanded to include additional hallmarks and enabling characteristics -covered in Cancer Biology II).

Week 1 of the course will provide a general overview of cancer from a clinical perspective. Subsequent weeks will elaborate on the core properties of cancer and discuss each "hallmark" using clinical examples and molecular explanations. The discussion board will be used to encourage exploration of how various hallmarks are interlinked to drive cancer development and progression, as well as how molecule level knowledge of cancer characteristics can impact on therapeutic developments.

Within the course materials we will study tumour type examples to highlight how some cancers are more, or less, dependent on individual cancer hallmarks.

3) Student Learning Experience
Students will learn from research-scientists and academic healthcare professionals. The course is delivered online and is divided into five sessions, each lasting a week. Teaching sessions will be composed of written materials, interviews and video presentations, accompanied by guided reading elements (in the form of links to journal articles.) as well as independent literature searches.

Discussion of the content and reading materials will be posted to an online forum (discussion board). Course tutors will moderate discussion boards and to encourage participation the boards will be assessed. Students will further evidence their learning by researching, developing and presenting a poster focusing on molecular mechanism and clinical implications of their chosen "hallmark".

Students will post to a weekly E-diary where they can reflect on their learning experience.

Formative peer and teacher-led feedback will be given throughout the course through the discussion boards, and summative assessment feedback will be provided at the end of the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Block 1 (Sem 1)
Course Start Date 19/09/2022
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 15, Online Activities 25, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 58 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) In-course assessment -100%
Written 60%
Online 40%

Specific assessment items will be developed each year to address the LOs from the course. This will allow flexibility in terms of the focus of assignments, to ensure the topics are current and of relevance/importance in this field of study.

For example:
Students discuss specific questions relevant to the weekly lectures - posed and facilitated by the Course Team - via an asynchronous discussion board (20%)

In order to stimulate engagement with the programme and identify any problems early on, students will post blogs to an E-diary, aided by guided questions, to reflect on their learning (20%).

Students will choose from one of the hallmarks of cancer and produce a poster presentation discussing the importance of the hallmark in the diagnosis/treatment of a specific cancer and in the development of novel, targeted drugs (60%)

Assessments will align with the learning outcomes.
Feedback Summative assessment consists of research, generation and presentation of a poster (worth 60% of the total mark), and an online element worth 40% (discussion board and E-diary). Course tutors will engage with discussion boards/E diaries on a weekly basis. In both cases, comprehensive written feedback is provided individually with 15 working days of the assessment deadline. Students are expected to reflect on their feedback, to seek additional clarification if appropriate, and to use this to improve on future assignments of a similar nature.

Formative assessment consists of discussion around what is expected of each piece of assessed work for the course. This is conducted in an open discussion forum for all students to contribute to and provides an opportunity to clearly understand the key requirements for each assignment before submission.

Any student can post questions about the assignment and a response will be posted on the discussion board by the course tutor within 3 working days.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the principles, theories and concepts behind the some of the key drivers of cancer development and progression at both a molecular and clinical level.
  2. Draw from, and apply knowledge, from a range of discipline specific resources to develop original and creative responses to the challenges of cancer biology.
  3. Communicate, with peers from a range of audiences, with clarity regarding the critical evaluation of a wide range of molecular and clinical research outputs.
Reading List
Much of the focus of this course will be driven through student engagement. Resources will be provided as a starting point from which it is expected that students will begin to develop their own reading lists and share this information with others.

Starting point:
The hallmarks of cancer.
Hanahan D, Weinberg RA. Cell. 2000 100:57-70.
doi: 10.1016/s0092-8674(00)81683-9.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students graduating from this course will have a critical understanding of the molecular biology of a cancer cell and how the common hallmarks influence the aetiology and treatment of the most common cancer types.

The independent study aspect and assessments will enhance the graduates┬┐ self-motivation, time management and ability to reflect on their learning. They will also improve students ability to creatively tackle problems, assimilate the findings of primary research and peer knowledge in their arguments, discussions and assessments and communicate these arguments to multiple audiences.
Special Arrangements This course will be taught entirely by distance learning, using the virtual learning environment of Learn as the delivery platform. Course materials are protected by a secure username and password. These access details are made available to registered users only.
KeywordsCore hallmarks of cancer,cancer aetiology,clinical overview of cancer,molecular drivers
Course organiserDr Kathryn Ball
Tel: (0131) 777 3560
Course secretaryMs Deborah Walker
Tel: (0131 6)51 1513
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