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

Postgraduate Course: Comparative Oncology and Veterinary Cancer (BIME11186)

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
SummaryComparative oncology is the integration of studies on naturally occurring cancers in veterinary patients with human cancer biology and novel treatment development. This course will concentrate on veterinary cancer with a focus on companion animals highlighting similarities and differences with human tumour types, how cancer treatment in animals can be improved and how, for example, studies on canine patients can be translated into human medicine.
Course description 1) Academic description
Spontaneous tumours in companion animals (dog and cat) offer a unique opportunity as models for human cancer biology and translational cancer therapeutics. The relatively high incidence of some cancers in companion animals alongside factors such as similarities in environment, body size plus cellular and physiological response to cytotoxic agents, make companion animals much more attractive and informative as physiologically models of human cancer than, for example, rodents. Further, the relatively short overall lifespan of cats and dogs is an advantage when considering comparative oncology as a route into improved treatment for humans. Importantly however, by encouraging studies on animal patients there is also the prospect of providing more treatment options in veterinary oncology.

Students will gain a critical understanding of how studying cancer in companion animals can provide insights into the genetic and molecular causes of human cancer. In addition, they will appreciate how studying the response of cats and dogs to novel anti-cancer therapies may provide a more relevant physiologically model for translation to humans. Thus, companion animal research could reduce the high rates of attrition normally encountered when moving from pre-clinical mouse models to human clinical trials.

2) Outline content
The course will start with a general overview of comparative oncology and companion animal cancer. It will then move on to cover a number of topics in more detail, including: (1) the underlying genetic predisposition to cancer susceptibility in some breeds which facilitates genome-wide association studies as a powerful tool for unravelling complex cancer genetics: (2) companion animals as a model for cancer in humans, (3) the potential role of companion animal models in translation of new therapies into human clinical trials; (4) development of companion animal cancer specific treatments; (5) cancer types in companion animals and their relationship to human cancer e.g. lymphoma, melanoma, osteosarcoma and brain cancer.

The course will cover the molecular, genetic and clinical aspects of cancer and will also look at the radical and ethical differences in treating human and companion animal disease.

3) Student Learning Experience
Students will learn from research-scientists and academic veterinarians as well as clinicians from the field of human oncology with an interest in comparative oncology approaches. The course is delivered online and is divided into five sessions, each lasting a week. Teaching sessions will be composed of written materials 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 reviewing a grant application (provided to them) in the field of comparative oncology and veterinary cancer. In addition, the students will prepare a lay presentation on pros and cons of comparative studies, in the form of either a powerpoint presentation or 'in a nut shell'.

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 Flexible
Course Start Date 08/08/2022
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Online Activities 20, 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%

For example:
Short presentation 40%.
Grant review 60%
Feedback Summative assessment consists of a grant review that will include a critical understanding of the literature around the subject area (worth 60% of the total mark), and an online element which will be either a short powerpoint presentation or an 'in a nutshell presentation' plus assessed discussion board. In both cases, comprehensive written feedback is provided individually within 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 some of the key drivers in veterinary cancer at both a molecular and clinical level.
  2. Recognise the possible impact of comparative oncology on the delivery of new treatments to both animal and human patients.
  3. Draw from, and apply knowledge, from a range of discipline specific resources to develop original and creative responses to the challenges in veterinary cancer and comparative oncology
  4. Communicate, with peers from a range of audiences, with clarity regarding the critical evaluation of a wide range of molecular and clinical data.
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.

- Comparative Oncology: New Insights into an Ancient Disease, DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101373
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students on this course will be encouraged to seek out ways to develop their expertise in comparative oncology and veterinary aspects of cancer treatment. They will strive for excellence in their professional practice and use established and newly developed approaches to understand the relationship between molecular hallmarks, clinical observations and the therapeutic treatment of cancer.

The independent study aspect of the course will enhance the student¿s abilities in time-management and self-motivation.

In addition, students will use self-reflection to seek out learning opportunities. Students will also use the newly acquired knowledge and critical assessment to identify and creatively tackle problems and assimilate the findings of primary research and peer knowledge in their arguments, discussions and assessments.

The structure of the interactive (discussion boards and collaborative activities) and assessment elements incorporate constant reinforcement and development of skills in the critical assessment of information and data related to both the molecular and clinical aspects of cancer biology.
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.
KeywordsComparative oncology,molecular,genetic and clinical aspects of companion animal oncology
Course organiserDr Kathryn Ball
Tel: (0131) 777 3560
Course secretaryMs Deborah Walker
Tel: (0131 6)51 1513
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