This course is unavailable through clearing

This course is now full for our 2022 entry, but have a look at our clearing vacancies to see if a similar course has space.

Search all clearing vacancies

BSc Molecular Biology with Industrial/Professional Experience / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
Molecular Biology of Cancer (E)

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL31742
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by School of Biological Sciences
Available as a free choice unit? No


You will gain an understanding of the molecular events which lead to cancer. Particular attention will be paid to: the specific molecular events leading to the formation of specific tumours; the processes of apoptosis, cell cycle, chromatin and gene regulation and signal transduction to tumorigenesis; the latest developments in basic cancer research. You will also explore the impact of molecular biology on developing cancer therapies. The lecture series will split into the three main topics of tumour formation, molecular basis and therapies covering a diverse range of topics including "Genomic approaches to cancer research”,  "Tissues invasion and metastasis" and "Cancer cures and possible therapies".


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
The Dynamic Cell BIOL21121 Pre-Requisite Recommended
Genome Maintenance & Regulation BIOL21101 Pre-Requisite Recommended


To provide students with a general understanding of the molecular events which lead to cancer.

Learning outcomes

The students will; (a) have an understanding of the specific molecular events leading to the formation of specific tumours; (b) be able to relate the processes of apoptosis, cell cycle, chromatin and gene regulation and signal transduction to tumorigenesis; (c) be acquainted with the latest developments in basic cancer research; (d) to be able to apply molecular knowledge in developing cancer therapies.


Tumour formation and progression

• Statistics and environmental causes of cancer. 

• Concept of multi-step progression and the multiple-hit hypothesis.

• Introduction to the cellular changes and the stages in cancer progression.

• Mechanisms of genomic instability.

• Cell cycle checkpoints and telomere maintenance

• DNA repair mechanisms, drug metabolism and their relationship to cancer.

• Translocations and cancer.

• Predisposition to cancer. e.g. in retinoblastomas and breast cancers.

• Tissue invasion and metastasis

Molecular basis

• Tumour suppressor proteins including p53 and RB and relationship to cell cycle

• Epigenetic, chromatin and gene regulation changes in cancer

• Introduction to MAP kinase signal transduction pathways

• Nuclear targets of MAP kinase signal transduction pathways.

• Relationship between oncogenes and signal transduction pathways.

• Pathway crosstalk and relationship to tumourigenesis.

• Apoptosis and its relationship to cancer.


• Cancer diagnosis, cures and possible therapies.

Self-directed learning

• Research into specific cancers and identification of specific molecular changes associated with individual tumours.

• Research into the following topics; Telomeres and cancer, Cancer Stem Cell Hypothesis, Tumour Angiogenesis, additional signalling pathways disrupted in Cancers.

• Formative post lecture interactive tests on Nearpod.


eLearning activity

Online interactive quizzes, one of which illustrates the molecular defects found in cancer cells in the context of diagnosing and treating a patient with lung cancer.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Assessing primary research papers is important here and is a skill that should be developed.
Problem solving
There is an online learning resource which asks students to work through a case scenario, which leads to a cure for cancer. They then uncover what the molecular features are.
As with all units, students need to evaluate the literature critically, and assess which research gives a useful advance, and which does not.
Written communication
Short essay writing (1 page essay plan) as part of in course assessment. Also 2 essays in final exam.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 95%
Written assignment (inc essay) 5%

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided on the in course assessment, and via an interactive e-learning exercise.

Recommended reading

Weinberg, RA (2006/2014) The Biology of Cancer. Garland Science

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 18
Independent study hours
Independent study 80

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Andrew Sharrocks Unit coordinator

Return to course details