• University of Bath

Inside Cancer: How Genes Influence Cancer Development

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

54,235 enrolled on this course

Cancer cells

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.

What topics will you cover?

  • What is cancer and why do we get it?
  • How rogue cells behave: oncogenes, tumour suppressor genes and apoptosis in cancer development
  • Genetic pathways to cancer: angiogenesis, metastasis, cancer stem cells and immune cells in cancer development
  • Diagnostics and treatments: success and challenges of traditional (radiotherapy /chemotherapy) and targeted (immunotherapy) approaches

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?

The course is designed as a beginner’s guide to cancer genetics and would appeal to school students, teachers, undergraduates, pharmacists, nurses, medical practitioners, or indeed anyone interested in understanding the molecular basis of cancer.

Please note this course is self-paced and will run without facilitation.

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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