spring 2019

MBI-3004 The biology of cancer - 10 ECTS

Sist endret: 04.09.2019

The course is provided by

Faculty of Health Sciences


Tromsø |

Application deadline

Applicants from the Nordic countries: 1st of December.

Type of course

The subject is optional for students accepted to the Master program in biomedicine. The course is also electable for other students with relevant background knowledge.

Admission requirements

The course is offered to students that are accepted to the Master program in biomedicine. Students with a bachelor degree in biomedicine or an equivalent bachelor degree, may be able to take the course as single course students.

Application code (nordic applicants): 9371

The minimum average grade requirement is:

  • C - for bachelor's degree or equivalent issued in Europe, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand
  • B - for bachelor's degree or equivalent issued in all other countries

Course content

The following topics will be lectured:

The nature of cancer including an introduction to cancer pathology and clinical aspects of cancer. Tumor viruses, cellular oncogenes, growth factors and their receptors, signaling pathways relevant to cancer development, tumor suppressor genes, the control of the cell cycle and apoptosis . Immortalization, multistep tumorigenesis, genome integrity and cancer development, angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis, tumor immunology and rational treatment of cancer will also be addressed in this course.

Objectives of the course

After following the course the students should know;

- what types of cellular processes go awry in the transformation of normal cells to cancerous cells.

- what evidence indicate that tumours arise from normal tissues in a multistep process.

- in what ways mutations arise and what evidence indicate that cancer is caused by mutations and how viruses contribute to the cause of cancer.

- what is an oncogene, and in what different ways a proto-oncogene can be activated - the typical histological features and nomenclature of benign and malignant tumours.

- the mechanisms of a growth factor receptor activation and in what ways growth factor receptors may contribute to cancer

- in what ways oncogenic RAS contribute to the development of cancer. - what is a tumour suppressor gene, and how one may become inactivated.

- why tumour suppressors typically function as recessive alleles, while oncogenes usually are dominant.

- what is the role of pRB in the cell cycle, and how does disruption of the cell cycle contribute to cancer - what is the role of p53 in the regulation of DNA repair and apoptosis.

- how loss of p53 may contribute to the development of cancer. - what is cellular senescence and what triggers this cellular response.

- what role telomers and telomerase play in normal cells and how theses roles are altered in tumour cells.

- how multi-step tumourigenesis relates to cancer development over time.

- how tumour promoting agents and mutagens differ in their contribution to cancer development.

- the various methods of DNA repair and how defects in DNA repair are related to cancer.

- principles of angiogenesis, stroma formation and and why its critical to cancer survival.

- different therapeutic approaches targeting angiogenesis and metastatic processes.

- the role of tumour microenvironment, inflammatory cells and substances in tumor promotion

- what evidences suggests that the immune system may play a role in immune suppression and how the immune system may be exploited to make tumour cells more succeptible to immunologic attack.

- the pros and conc of conventional chemotherapy and what classes of molecules might be a valuable targets for the development of new anti-cancer therapies.

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

The course consists of lectures, groupwork and a microscope lab. There will be 36-40 lectures of 45 minutes each and at least 10 hours of group work to discuss and present specific topics.


The final evaluation is based on a 15 page essay on a given topic. Graded alphabetically A-F (F is fail).


Coursework requirements

Participation in the group work and the oral presentation is compulsory. The oral presentation must be approved before the final evaluation.

If a student is unable to participate in the group work he/she will have to participate in the course next time the course is held.


Re-sit exam/postponed exam

A re-sit exam/postponed exam will be arranged early in the following semester, for candidates who failed the essay or who, for valid reasons, were unable to attend. 

Date for examination

Take-home examination hand in date 14.03.2019

The date for the exam can be changed. The final date will be announced in the StudentWeb early in May and early in November.


Recommended reading/syllabus

Pensumliste for The biology of cancer

Recommended reading/syllabus

Information about syllabus/reading will be given when the course starts.


Andersen, Anine Therese

Telefon: +4777645363 anine.t.andersen@uit.no

Synnøve Magnussen

Telefon: +4777644722 synnove.magnussen@uit.no