BMOL40050 Advanced Cancer Biology and Pharmacology

Academic Year 2021/2022

This module covers advanced topics in cancer aetiology, epidemiology, prevention, disease stratification, and treatment. The module will discuss advances in therapeutic strategies (with a focus on targeted therapeutics) currently used or under development for the treatment of cancer. The module content will take students on a journey from the macro environment, populations, cancer causes, cancer prevention, to the tumour microenvironment, and then to the major current and developing cancer therapies with increasing use of tumour molecular subtypes and technology development for precision oncology.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

The learning objectives of the Advanced Cancer Biology and Pharmacology module should enable you to:
1. Describe the major environmental risk factors for impacting risk of cancer development.
2. Understand the use of (chemo)prevention strategies to reduce risk of cancer development.
3. Critically evaluate existing and novel therapeutic approaches to cancer chemotherapy.
4. Understand & describe how knowledge of cancer biology can inform development of targeted cancer therapies such as immunotherapies & therapy selection: Develop an appreciation of how omics technologies are facilitating this process.
5. Describe the core issues, molecular approaches, challenges and benefits of developing targeted cancer therapies.
6. Understand how knowledge of the tumour microenviroment, tumour heterogeneity and drug resistance mechanisms affect drug efficacy, and need to be more comprehensively considered in future drug development to improve cancer treatment.
7. Describe how cancer genomics is implemented in clinical routine and clinical trials.
8. Describe Patient-derived tumour xenografts (PDX) as models for oncology drug development.
9. Discuss how the gut microbiome can inform development of cancer therapies.
10. Appreciate how Systems Biology and Modelling of Signalling Networks helps us to understand complex biology and to design novel therapeutics.

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture Topics (Provisional list, subject to alteration):
1. Introduction to Module / Cancer Epidemiology and chemoprevention
2. Tumour heterogeneity and the tumour microenvironment (signalling in ME determines metastatic potential)
3. Molecular therapeutic targeting based on cancer biology / genomics; an overview
4. Advances in cancer treatment approaches based on Genomics
5. Pharmacogenetics in drug development / treatment
6. Cancer epigenetics biomarkers and drug development
7. Advances in cancer treatment approaches II (Cancer immunotherapy, digital pathology, single cell proteomics, liquid biopsies)
8. Focus on targeted therapies and mechanisms of drug resistance
9. Nanotechnology therapy in cancer
10. Emerging role of the microbiome in cancer prognosis and response to chemotherapy
11. Overview on systems medicine approaches for personalised medicine in cancer therapy
12. Student Hot Topics Presentations

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The primary mode of delivery of content within this module will be through lectures including instructors from interdisciplinary cancer research strands (epidemiology, cancer biology, cancer genomics, drug development, nanotechnology, systems medicine).

Student presentations on a ‘hot-topic’ in advanced cancer pharmacology research are also used to help promote peer learning and cooperation. Grades will be assigned based on a judging panel’s evaluation of the student presentation and their response to the judges’ questions (where possible. note for the current covid19 restrictions there will not be student presentations and the assignment will be submitted for grading).

Self-directed learning using cancer pharmacology 'Cell Press' webinars will also be utilized throughout this module.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:


Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Register and listen to three cancer related Cell Press webinars (can select 3 from a list provided to the students). Full 10% awarded for viewing the webinars. Varies over the Trimester n/a Standard conversion grade scale 40% No


Essay: End of Semester Long Form Essay Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Summer No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Group formative feedback session prior to the long form essay assignment will provide students with a better understanding of the expectations of the assignment. Formative Feedback individually to students by email or face-to-face meetings will be provided for queries they submit on the course content, course assignments, or questions over the assessments. Formative Feedback individually to students by email or face-to-face meetings will be provided for queries they have on preparing the course assignments (with a tutorial also on tips for preparing the course assignments). Student summative feedback will be given based on their course assignment grading and tutor’ comments. Feedback to students after the long form essay (in addition to the comments on their assignment for the grading provided individually to them) can be provided upon request.

The Biology of Cancer, 2ndEd
Robert A. Weinberg
or similar general textbook

Case Studies in Cancer
(Lee RJ, Abramson JS, Goldsby RA)

Rang & Dale’s Pharmacology
Lange’s Basic & Clinical Pharmacology

Original and Review Article PDFs accompany all lectures; these PDFs will be uploaded on Brightspace.

Name Role
Assoc Professor John Crean Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Maria Prencipe Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Jens Rauch Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Yan Yan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 29, 30, 31, 32 Thurs 09:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 29, 30, 31 Tues 09:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 32 Tues 09:00 - 10:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 29, 30, 31, 32 Wed 14:00 - 15:50