• A capital C written on the left and Cancer Research UK written on the right

Demystifying Targeted Cancer Treatments

Discover the science of targeted cancer treatments and immunotherapies on this course designed for clinical cancer research nurses

17,425 enrolled on this course

Demystifying Targeted Cancer Treatments

Deepen your understanding and improve communication with patients and colleagues

New from February 2020: The world of cancer treatment is changing rapidly, therefore we’ve added new content on immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibitors, CAR T cells, PARP inhibitors and CDK inhibitors.

Although the course is open to all, it has been designed primarily for clinical research nurses working with patients on clinical cancer trials, along with clinical cancer research staff and specialist cancer nurses. See more information below.

Thanks to ground-breaking research over the past 20 years, new, more targeted treatments and immunotherapies have been developed that are changing the way we treat cancer, and providing new hope for patients. Join us and discover the science behind these treatments and learn through quizzes, interviews, articles and patient case studies. Each week you’ll have the opportunity to engage in discussion with other learners on key issues. You’ll learn from experts in the field and gain a deeper understanding of how targeted cancer treatments and immunotherapies work to support your patients.

You may notice little or no facilitation from the course’s lead educators and mentors at this time. However, we’d encourage you to follow and join in discussion with other learners, share your experience and knowledge, and hear different perspectives to enhance your learning experience. We hope that you will enjoy interacting with and learning from each other in this way. Don’t forget to comment, reply to other learners and ‘like’ comments.

Download video: standard or HD


  • Week 1

    An introduction to targeted cancer treatments

    • Welcome to the course

      Before you get started take some time to meet the educators and your fellow learners and share what you hope to learn.

    • What are targeted cancer treatments?

      Explore what we mean by the term 'targeted treatment', how these treatments fit into history, and reflect on what they mean to you.

    • How are targeted cancer treatments used today?

      In the section we hear from Professor Peter Johnson, National Clinical Director for Cancer, about how targeted treatments are used in today's clinical practice and explore what the goal of these treatments is.

    • Biological concepts behind targeted cancer treatments

      In this section you will learn the necessary biological concepts and terms needed to understand targeted cancer treatments in the rest of the course.

    • Summary

      Check your understanding of what we've learned, ask a question, share your thoughts and take a look at what's coming next week.

  • Week 2

    Targeted cancer treatments for solid tumours

    • Welcome to week two

      Welcome to the second week of the course. This week we explore targeted treatments for solid tumours, and turn our attention to a group of treatments that block cell communication pathways.

    • Cell communication and cancer

      Many new targeted treatments for solid tumours block proteins involved in cell communication. In order to understand how they work, we must first explore how and why our cells communicate and how this goes wrong in cancer cells.

    • Drugs that block cell communication pathways

      So far we have learned how cells communicate and how this goes wrong in cancer cells. Now we turn our attention to the treatments that block cell communication; monoclonal antibodies and kinase inhibitors.

    • Explaining cell communication blockers to patients

      In this section we'll hear from two research nurses about their experiences of explaining cell communication blockers to patients and invite you to join the discussion.

    • Blocking angiogenesis

      In this section, we look at the process of new blood vessel growth, angiogenesis, and why this is important to cancer growth. We'll be introduced to angiogenesis inhibitors, a group of treatments that target this process.

    • Introducing CDK and PARP inhibitors

      In this section we learn about the science behind two other targeted cancer treatments - CDK inhibitors and PARP inhibitors - and the groups of patients they can benefit.

    • Summary

      Check your understanding of what we've learned, ask a question, share your thoughts and take a look at what's coming next week.

  • Week 3

    Targeted treatments for blood cancers

    • Welcome to week three

      Welcome to week three. This week we look at a variety of targeted treatments for blood cancers including antibodies and those that target B cell receptor signalling, and hear from a patient about his experience of treatment.

    • Introduction to blood cancers

      In this section we'll learn about the unique cellular and genetic make-up of blood cancers, and why monoclonal antibodies are used to treat them.

    • Topic 1: Targeted treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)

      Now we look at targeted treatments for NHL and CLL, including the antibody treatment rituximab. We talk to research nurses Carly and Emma about how they describe antibodies to patients, and invite you to join this discussion.

    • Topic 2: Targeting the Bcr-Abl kinase in chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)

      Explore some of the exciting treatment approaches for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), discuss caring for patients, and hear first-hand from Paul about his experiences of long-term treatment.

    • Topic 3: Targeted treatments for acute leukaemias, Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma

      In this section we discover what targeted therapies are helping to treat acute leukaemias, Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

    • Summary

      Check your understanding of what we've learned, ask a question, share your thoughts and take a look at what's coming next week.

  • Week 4


    • Welcome to week four

      This week we explore a range of new immunotherapy treatments. We invite you to take part in an exercise to review how these treatments are reported in the media, and we'll look at what the future of immunotherapy might hold.

    • Using the immune system to treat cancer

      First off this week, we'll look at the relationship between cancer cells and our immune system, and some of the ways that cancer cells avoid being destroyed by white blood cells.

    • Checkpoint inhibitors

      In this section we look at checkpoint inhibitors, a group of treatments that are creating a lot of excitement. We'll explore the science behind them, meet nurses and a patient called Adrian, to hear his experiences of treatment.

    • Other immunotherapy strategies

      Now we hear about an exciting new treatment called CAR T cell therapy, including the science behind CAR T cells and the challenges faced by nurses who are caring for patients.

    • Immunotherapy in the news: deciphering hope and hype

      In this activity, we explore how an immunotherapy has been reported in the news and if the coverage gives an accurate and balanced view of the treatment. We invite you to discuss how media hype can impact patients' expectations.

    • What does the future of immunotherapy look like?

      To round up this week, we hear again from Professor Peter Johnson, who has been working on immune-based treatments for 25 years. He reflects on how far these treatments have come and what he’s most excited about for the future.

    • Summary

      Check your understanding of what we've learned, ask a question, share your thoughts and take a look at what's coming next week.

  • Week 5

    Current challenges and future promise

    • Welcome to week five

      In our final week, we explore some of the current challenges of using targeted treatments, including drug resistance & the implementation of biomarker tests. We'll also look at the future promise of targeted cancer treatments.

    • Current challenge: drug resistance

      In this section, we learn how and why cancers often become resistant to targeted treatments, and explore some of the strategies being used to overcome treatment resistance.

    • Current challenge: putting biomarkers into practice

      Now we'll discover what biomarker tests are, how they can be used and their potential to bring about personalised cancer care. We'll also explore the challenges with putting biomarker tests into practice.

    • The future of targeted cancer treatments - vaccines and viruses?

      At the end of the course, we look to the future of targeted cancer treatments and to some of the innovative approaches on the horizon. We hear from experts on what the future might hold and invite you to join in the discussion.

    • Summary

      Check your understanding of what we've learned, ask a question, comment on your experience of the course and reflect on how a deeper understanding of targeted treatments may help your practice.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. 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...

  • Understand the science behind targeted cancer treatments and how they work
  • Improve confidence in communicating to patients and colleagues about targeted cancer treatments, immunotherapy and biomarkers
  • Appreciate why so called 'targeted treatments' cause side effects and understand how they impact patients’ quality of life
  • Recognise some of the current challenges and future potential of targeted cancer treatments

Who is the course for?

This course has been designed primarily for clinical cancer research nurses, along with other members of the clinical cancer research team. It can go towards your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and/or revalidation with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The course is also relevant for and may be of interest to specialist cancer nurses and other health professionals including pharmacists and medical/science graduates studying this topic.

A basic understanding of how cells work is needed to get the most out of this course. Some experience working in cancer is also recommended.

Who will you learn with?

I qualified as a nurse in 1994, and after several years working on medical wards, I moved into research. For the last 10 years I have been the lead research nurse at CRUK.

Author of "A beginner's guide to targeted cancer treatments". Elaine teaches cancer biology and the science of new cancer treatments to non-scientists. She has a PhD in Molecular Biology.

Who developed the course?

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) are the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Join this course

Start this course for free, upgrade for extra benefits, or buy Unlimited to access this course and hundreds of other short courses for a year.



Join free and you will get:

  • Access to this course for 7 weeks



Upgrade this course and you will get:

  • Access to this course for as long as it’s on FutureLearn
  • A print and digital Certificate of Achievement once you’re eligible


$279.99 for one year

Buy Unlimited and you will get:

  • Access to this course, and hundreds of other FutureLearn short courses and tests for a year
  • A printable digital Certificate of Achievement on all short courses once you’re eligible
  • The freedom to keep access to any course you've achieved a digital Certificate of Achievement on, for as long as the course exists on FutureLearn
  • The flexibility to complete your choice of short courses in your own time within the year

Find out more about upgrades or Unlimited.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...

You can use the hashtag #FLCancerTreatments to talk about this course on social media.