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Online course

Inside Cancer: How Genes Influence Cancer Development

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


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Inside Cancer: How Genes Influence Cancer Development

Why join the course?

Cancer is a disease that affects around one-third of the human population, irrespective of nationality or ethnic origins. There are many types of cancer, but they all have one thing in common - they begin as rebel or mutant cells.

Understand the DNA mutations behind cancer

In this free online course, you’ll learn about the fundamental biological concepts that inform our current understanding of cancer development, the molecular genetics behind it and its spread within the body.

Over six weeks, we’ll explore some of the fundamental differences between normal cells and cancer cells. We’ll introduce the concept of DNA mutations and the emerging area of epigenetics, identifying how cancer cells are able to trick our blood vessels and immune system to grow uncontrollably.

Finally, we’ll 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.

Learn with leading researchers and clinical oncologists

On the course, you’ll learn with some of the University of Bath’s leading cancer researchers, as well as clinical oncologists who treat cancer everyday at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

The course will give you a taster of studying this subject further, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level. You can visit the university’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry or Department of Pharmacy and Pharmacology to find out more about the programmes available and the research they carry out.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 40 secondsHello 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.

What topics will you cover?

  • What is cancer and why do we get it?
  • DNA and cancer: An Introduction to genetics and epigenetics.
  • Genetic hallmarks of cancer 1: Oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes and apoptosis in cancer development
  • Genetic hallmarks of cancer 2: Angiogenesis, metastasis, cancer stem cells and immune cells in cancer development
  • Cancer Therapies: success and challenges of traditional (radiotherapy /chemotherapy) and targeted (immunotherapy) approaches
  • Future of oncology research (models used and drug target identification).

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

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?

The course is designed as a beginner’s guide, suitable for those who have studied - or are studying - biology at school. If you have more experience, you may also find the course interesting.

Who will you learn with?

Dr Momna Hejmadi

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?

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.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.