• University of Bath

Inside Cancer: How Genes Influence Cancer Development

Understand how genetics influence the development and spread of cancer, with this introductory online course.

55,495 enrolled on this course

Cancer cells

Inside Cancer: How Genes Influence Cancer Development

55,495 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

What is the one thing that all cancers have in common? They begin as mutant or rebel cells! In this course we will explore how changes in cancer genetics and epigenetics enables these cells to grow uncontrollably, by exploiting our blood vessels and immune system along with other systemic changes.

Finally, we will discuss how our understanding of genetics has helped both refine conventional treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, and inform the design of new treatments that can target specific proteins within cancer cells.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds Hello and welcome. I’m Dr Momna Hejmadi and I’m the lead educator on this six week course, Inside Cancer. This course is being delivered by myself and fellow researchers here at the University of Bath, and with our consultant oncologists from the Royal United Hospital at Bath. And together, we will explore how some of the basic genetics can influence cancer development and spread. Cancer is a disease that affects about one third of the human population, irrespective of nationality, irrespective of ethnic origins, and the types of cancers that you get also vary considerably. But what all cancers have in common is that they start off as rebel cells, mutant cells, which defy the normal regulations that govern cell behaviour.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds And it is this survival of the nastiest that results in the development of cancer as we know it. This course is a beginners guide. Together, we will explore some of the fundamental differences that dictate behaviour in normal cells, as well as in cancer cells. We will start off first by exploring the concept of DNA mutations and how these changes in the cell’s genome, our DNA, affect how the cell behaves. We will also look at how the cancers trick the human body, both in terms of, let’s say, blood vessels, how they trick tumours to get bigger by stimulating blood vessels growth, or they can stimulate the immune system to bypass them and ultimately, it results in the spread of cancers.

Skip to 2 minutes and 14 seconds What understanding the genetics of cancer enables us researchers to do is rationalise our treatment. So whether it’s conventional treatments, like radiation or chemotherapy, we can refine these, or we can use more sophisticated targeted approaches, targeting specific proteins inside the cell. But there are problems and challenges for both these types of treatments. And together, we will explore in this course what are the key issues that drive cancer research here at Bath. Ultimately, this course is a beginner’s guide to show you how genetics can influence cell behaviour to make them cancerous.


  • Week 1

    What is cancer?

    • What is cancer?

      Welcome to our Inside Cancer course. Over the next few weeks, join me, Dr Momna Hejmadi, and my colleagues here at the University of Bath and find out more about the genetics of cancer, what cancer is and why it develops.

    • Genes and mutations

      Let's start by looking at some of the risk factors that can trigger cancers to develop.

    • Epigenetics in cancer

      Understanding how epigenetic changes can lead to cancer.

  • Week 2

    Behaviour of rogue cells

    • Behaviour of rogue cells

      Let's explore how rogue cells develop and how these can lead to cancer.

    • Chemical signals

      Signalling, or cell communication, is required to co-ordinate cell behaviour and is particularly important in organisms made up of many tissues and cell types.

    • Death-defying cancer cells

      In this session, we will examine how cancer cells defy death.

  • Week 3

    Genetic pathways to cancer

    • Angiogenesis

      One of the main pathways to cancer development is angiogenesis. It can be defined as the formation of new capillaries from pre-existing blood vessels by migration and proliferation of specialised cells, called endothelial cells.

    • Metastasis

      Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. It is often the most common cause of death from cancer but it still remains one of the most poorly understood area of cancer research.

    • Other roads to cancer

      Most human cancers are complex tissues arising from the clonal selection of subpopulations of cells with distinctive genetic heterogeneity.

  • Week 4

    Diagnostics and treatment

    • Diagnostics and treatment planning

      We have looked at the causes of cancer and what is happening with cancer cells. In this next section, we will explore cancer diagnosis and treatment options.

    • Conventional treatments

      The most common methods of treating cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which still account for the vast majority of treatment modalities used by medical oncologists.

    • The Future of Cancer Therapy

      In this section, we will explore future developments in cancer therapy.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

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...

  • Summarise the risk factors in cancer development
  • Explore the genetics and epigenetics of cancer, particularly the influence of genes involved in oncogenesis, apoptosis, angiogenesis and metastasis
  • Discuss the role of cancer stem cells and immune cells in cancer development
  • Explain the rationale underlying cancer therapies and the challenges in cancer treatment

Who is the course for?

This course is an introduction to cancer genetics and is designed to further your knowledge of the molecular basis of cancer.

It is suitable for secondary school students, considering studying medicine, nursing, or other careers in healthcare, as well as teachers who wish to learn more about cancer development.

It would also be beneficial for undergraduate students, pharmacists, nurses, and medical practitioners who want to further their understanding of the genetics and epigenetics.

This course is also suitable for cancer patients, families, and carer groups who want to explore the science behind cancer development and treatment.

Who will you learn with?

A member of University of Bath’s cancer research group, Dr Momna Hejmadi has also received awards for excellence in teaching and has carried out work in open education resources.

Who developed the course?

University of Bath

The University of Bath is one of the UK’s leading universities both in terms of research and our reputation for excellence in teaching, learning and graduate prospects.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 16 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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