Discover how genetics is revolutionising the detection and treatment of the different types of cancer.

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DNA strand
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
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Develop your understanding of cancer causation and treatment

Cancer Research UK estimates that 1 in 2 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. So understanding cancer, and the development of new treatments, is of intrinsic interest to us all.

On this six-week course from the University of Glasgow, you’ll gain fascinating insights into the developments that are transforming the way we understand and treat cancer.

Explore current methods for detecting and treating cancer

In order to move forward and develop new cancer detection and treatment methods, we need to understand where we’ve come from and where we are now.

You’ll start this course by learning how cancer develops in cells and the multistep process of cancer before assessing the different subtypes of cancer and how they are currently diagnosed.

Learn how genomic science is used to understand cancer

The genome holds a lot of information, some of which can indicate the possibility of cancer developing in a person.

This course will take you through how genetics can influence cancer, looking at the family pedigree and inherited predispositions to cancer. You’ll also look at cancer causation, from DNA damage and repair to potential environmental factors.

The cancer therapies of tomorrow are based on the discoveries of today with cutting-edge science paving the way for more effective treatments.

You’ll delve into the future of cancer therapies and recent developments in this field of medicine. From targeted therapies to personalised cancer medicine, you’ll explore current research efforts as well as the economics surrounding these new treatments.

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  • Week 1

    Where Have We Come From? The 'Normal' Cell And Beyond

    • Starting Off!

      Welcome to this course, as well as part 1 of our patient story.

    • The Normal Cell - How and Why Things Go Wrong

      We'll begin with a recap of the structure and basic function of normal cells and what happens when this goes wrong. Then we'll look in a bit more detail of the how and why of cancer - including the field of epidemiology.

    • Cancer Subtypes

      In this activity we consider two questions: What is pathology and why is it important in cancer?

    • Evaluating Sources On The Internet: Can You Believe What You Read About Cancer?

      This activity will help you to think more deeply about what you read online. You'll then have the opportunity to put your skills into practice researching more about some of the causes of cancer.

    • Week 1 Summary

      A summary discussion and round up for Week 1

  • Week 2

    Where Are We Now?

    • Introduction To Week 2

      An introduction to this week's course material and part 2 of the patient experience.

    • Tumour Suppressor Genes And Oncogenes

      In cancer cells, the function of tumour suppressor genes is lost, and oncogenes are activated. In this activity you'll learn about how they function and study examples of each.

    • The Hallmarks Of Cancer

      Cancer cells share several common characteristics, or 'hallmarks', which make them different from normal cells. In this activity you will learn about these and we will also consider how cells ensure accurate DNA replication.

    • Cancer Diagnosis and Screening

      In this activity we will discuss how cancer some of the symptoms of cancer, along with how it is screened for and diagnosed.

    • Inherited Predisposition To Cancer and Genetic Counselling

      Here you will learn about how a predisposition to cancer can be inherited in some families. We will also briefly look at the role of the Genetic Counsellor in helping these patients.

    • Week 2 Summary

      A summary of what you've learned in week 2.

  • Week 3

    Cancer Treatment And Management: From Traditional To Precision Medicine

    • Introduction To Week 3

      Welcome to Week 3 of this course in which we'll look at how cancer is currently treated - including some targeted approaches which have been developed over the past 20 years.

    • Current Cancer Treatments

      In this activity we will examine the traditional mainstays of cancer treatment - surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

    • The Beginnings of Precision Medicine: Breast Cancer, Leukaemia and Lung Cancer

      In this activity you will learn how precision medicine is, to some extent, already applied in breast and lung cancer and certain leukaemias.

    • Week 3 summary

      A summary of the material we've covered in Week 3 and a chance to test your learning

  • Week 4

    Where are We Going? The Genomic Revolution

    • Introduction To Week 4

      An introduction to the topics we will cover in week 4, as well as the final part of our patient story. As preparation for some later content we will also hear from a doctor involved in clinical trials of new cancer drugs.

    • The Bigger Picture: Precision Cancer Medicine And The Tools To Explore It

      We will begin this week by exploring how an understanding of the differences between cancer genomes is vital to the developing field of precision medicine. We will also take a brief look at some of the key bioinformatics tools.

    • New Horizons In Cancer Therapy

      In this activity we will cover several exciting areas - including immunotherapy, gene therapy and CAR T-cell therapy. We'll aso touch on the epigenetics of cancer as this gives another insight into treatment targets.

    • Can We Afford It?

      In this activity we examine the important issue of the health economics of cancer treatment

    • Week 4 Summary

      We hope you enjoyed this final week, and that it has given you an insight into some of the exciting ways in which genomics is transforming our understanding of cancer and the therapeutic approaches used to fight it.

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an understanding of basic cell biology as it relates to the development of cancer
  • Discuss factors contributing to the development of cancer including environmental and genetic aspects
  • Identify current approaches used to identify and treat cancer
  • Reflect on strategies which may be used in future cancer therapies and the implications for society

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in genomic medicine and the clinical impact of differences in our DNA. This includes those already working in healthcare professions, or anyone considering studying medicine or nursing who is interested in specialising in oncology or exploring different career paths within healthcare.

This course is also suitable for patients, family, and carer groups who wish to further their understanding of cancer, detection and treatment methods.

Who will you learn with?

My PhD was in Developmental Medicine and I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. I have also been a Senior Fellow of the HEA since 2016.

BSc (Hons) Biochemistry (1997)
PhD Biochemistry (2001)
Postdoctoral Research Associate (2001-2009)
Lecturer, School of Medicine (2009-)

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Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

About this ExpertTrack

Enhance your understanding of the role genetics plays in shaping our health, and how this insight can help us treat disease.

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