spring 2021
MBI-3004 The biology of cancer - 10 ECTS

Last changed 11.08.2021

Application deadline

Applicants from the Nordic countries: 1st of December.

Type of course

The course is an elective course for students accepted to the Master´s program in Biomedicine, but is also open for single course students who meet the admission requirements.

Admission requirements

The course can be taken as a singular course by students with a Bachelor´s degree in Biomedicine or similar (180 ECTS).

Recommended prerequisites: Basic knowledge at University Bachelor level in cell and molecular biology and genetics.

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 course discusses the nature of cancer including an introduction to cancer pathology and clinical aspects of cancer. Central topics: 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, cell immortalization, multistep tumorigenesis, genome integrity and cancer development, angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis, tumor immunology and rational treatment of cancer.

Objectives of the course

After the course the student should be able to:


  • List the major cancer types with regard to cellular origin.
  • Descibe typical histological features and explain the nomenclature of benign and malignant tumours.
  • Recite evidence indicating that tumours arise from normal tissues in a multistep process.
  • Explain how mutations arise and recite evidence indicating that cancer is caused by mutations.
  • Describe which cellular processes go awry in the (multistep) process of cancer development, including genetic and epigenetic changes.
  • Describe and give concrete examples of how the cell cycle is regulated by growth factors, receptors, cell cycle regulators, oncogenes and tumour suppressors, and how this affects tumour growth.
  • Describe how certain viruses contribute to the cause of cancer.
  • Explain the role of pRB in the cell cycle.
  • Explain how disruption of the cell cycle contributes to cancer.
  • Explain the role of p53 in the regulation of DNA repair and apoptosis.
  • Recite various DNA repair mechanisms and explain how defects in DNA repair relate to cancer.
  • Describe cellular senescence and the underlying mechanisms.
  • Describe the role of telomeres and telomerases in normal cells and how these roles are altered in tumour cells.
  • Explain and discuss the cancer stem cell theory.
  • Describe the principles of angiogenesis and stroma formation and explain why it is critical for survival of the cancer cells.
  • Describe the role of the tumour microenvironment and the inflammatory process for the progression of cancer.
  • Describe the necessary steps in the metastatic process.
  • List different therapeutic approaches targeting angiogenesis and metastatic process.
  • Explain the role of the immune system in cancer biology.
  • Explain how the immune system may be exploited to make tumour cells more susceptible to immunologic attack.
  • Describe conventional cancer therapy and discuss the tumour microenvironment, immune system/inflammatory process, cell cycle regulation, oncogenes and tumour suppressors as potential therapeutic targets.


  • Search, acquire and critically assess advanced knowledge in a specific field of cancer biology.
  • Employ current concepts, ideas and expressions in writing and through oral presentations.
  • Compile and summarise gained knowledge into a written review in the field of cancer biology.

General proficiency:

  • Implement and critical evaluate general information gained in the field of cancer biology.
  • Discuss different therapeutic approaches based in a general knowledge of cancer biology.
  • Communicate knowledge in cancer biology both orally and in writing.

Language of instruction


Teaching methods

The course will consist of lectures, seminars, micro-lectures, group work and a laboratory exercise.


The exam consists of two parts where each part counts 50% of the final grade:

  • Home exam (essay), counts 50% of the grade
  • Written exam (3h), counts 50 % of the grade

Grades A-F (F - fail).

Coursework requirements

  • Participation in the first lecture of the course.
  • Completion of all tests that are given during the course
  • Oral presentation of a scientific paper 

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.

Students will be able to re-sit the part-exam they failed (F) and keep the result for the part-exam they passed. Should students fail on the re-sit exam they must re-take the entire course next time the course is given.


Recommended reading/syllabus

Pensumliste for MBI-3004 The biology of cancer
  • About the course
  • Campus: Tromsø |
  • ECTS: 10
  • Course code: MBI-3004