MEDSCI302 - CANCER BIOLOGY
Mid-Semester Test: 15%
No Prescribed Textbooks but lecturers will put additional readings at the end of their lectures or under reading lists tab on canvas.
Official UoA Website: Link
MEDSCI302 builds on the knowledge from BIOSCI356 and MEDSCI203, with an in depth focus on the cancer component. The course coordinator is Dr. Rachelle Singleton – she is very responsive to emails and generally very helpful with any inquiries students might have. This course is extremely difficult and definitely requires the full 10 hours a week of study. All major non-lab assessments for this course are closed book, which means you have to know the content by heart. The mid-semester test is MCQs and can test very small details that are mentioned once in the slides. The final exam is long answer/essay based and each lecturer will have 1 question – there will be 8 options and you have to answer 5.
There are 5 lab reports/online assignments that need to be done and are often due the next week, they are each worth 8% submitted to turnitin.
Lab 1: Examination of apoptotic mechanism
Lecture 7 on apoptosis and the pre-lab reading are essential for this lab. The lab itself is deceptively simple and so are the questions, but they require in depth answers. It is also important to brush up on gel electrophoresis interpretation for this lab as well. The discussion portion of the lab requires extra reading and research beyond what is given in the lab.
Lab 2: Radiation induced cell killing
Lecture 13 on radiation biology is the basis for this lab. Make sure you understand how to interpret and draw survival graphs. Once again the lab itself is very easy but it the interpretation and the report writing requires a well thought out answer. Discussion section once again requires reading and research outside the provided materials.
Lab 3: Colorectal Cancer: Pathology detection and treatment
This lab involves going through an online module with lots of multi-choice questions based on both prior anatomy knowledge and lectures 9 and 10. These questions are not marked and are just for general interest but they do need to be attempted at least once. The module will star the questions which will be assessed, these assessed questions will need to be compiled on a separate document and submitted to turnitin.
Lab 4: Bioinformatics Laboratory
This lab is based on lectures 22-25. It is more based on data interpretation and understanding. The report itself like the previous 2 require research and reading papers outside what is provided.
Lab 5: Leukaemia Lab
This lab is very easy. Just make sure to attend the lecture associated with the lab and read the lab manual thoroughly before going. Maggie Kalev who runs this lab will give out the answers in her pre-lab recordings and activities.
Introduction to course and cancer hallmarks: Not much to this lecture and isn’t really examined outside of 1 or 2 MCQs relating to emerging hallmarks and enabling characteristics.
DNA Damage and Repair: There are 4 lectures relating to DNA damage and repair. This topic might feel quite overwhelming at first, but it becomes easier when you break it down into what causes DNA damage, the lesion that is formed and the specific repair mechanism that is used to repair the lesion. The diagrams are very useful for revision as a starting point to recall all the small details. This is one of the harder topics so there will be a revision tutorial before the mid-sem test.
Cell Cycle Control: Most of the content in this lecture you will have encountered before and should be just revision from BIOSCI356
Deregulation of apoptosis in cancer: This lecture goes in depth on apoptosis and is crucial to the 1st lab.
Histology, classification, grading and staging: these lectures are all pretty straightforward but there is a lot of new terms to rote learn. Main point is to make sure you understand the differences between the features of benign and malignant tumours and have a good look at the gross anatomical features that are present and learn how to describe them.
TGFb system: This lecture includes a lot of small different names for all the ligands and receptors. It’s important to know how the pathway is activated and the names of the different arms of the signalling pathway but not the individual names of the receptors and ligands.
P53: These 2 lectures cover how the guardian of the genome works. It’s really helpful to memorise the diagrams for how p53 responds in normal conditions vs under high stress conditions.
Radiation biology: This lecture is crucial for the 2nd lab and covers how radiation is used to treat cancer as well as how it induces the cells to die. There is some background physics but its mostly unimportant, you only need to consider the biological importance and how it plays a role in cell killing and DNA repair.
Hypoxia-induced stromal changes and cell stress responses: These 2 lectures cover the adaptive responses that cells undergo when they encounter stressed environments. The first has a focus on what happens in oxygen deprived scenarios and the second lecture gives a couple more in-depth examples – unfolded protein response and the energy stress response.
Cancer clinical trials: This lecture is pretty straightforward and just gives an overview of what goes into a clinical trial for cancer treatments. This lecture was not examinable in 2023.
Inherited and Familial Cancers: For this lecture it is mostly background common knowledge however what is important is the MEN1 example and how these cancers are managed clinically
Viruses and cancer: Like the inherited and familial cancers, most of the background information you should probably already know. The rest of the lecture covers an example on merkel cell polyoma virus as well as screening and vaccinations.
NGS techniques: This lecture will be mostly revision if you have done BIOSCI351, with a lot of the genetic sequencing techniques already having been covered there. But if you haven’t it is explained really well and the examples are relatively easy to understand.
Hormones and Cancer: This lecture has a focus on the evidence surrounding whether or not oestrogen and other hormones play any sort of role in the development of cancer.
Bioinformatics: These two lectures tie into the lab for the same topic. It might seem a little bit foreign but the NGS techniques lectures from before will be a good base to build from. It mostly compares how the new technology allows us to study cancer vs the methods that were used in the past.
Principles of metabolic programming: This lecture is quite content heavy as it has a biochemical focus on the Warburg effect and how cancer cell metabolism differs from normal cell metabolism.
Epigenetic changes: This lecture is also a bit challenging as there is a lot of content and small details to remember. Drawing out the diagrams and knowing which modifications are associated with gene activation and gene repression will be useful.
Oncogenes: Mainly talks about how oncogenes drive cancer with a focus on gene rearrangements
Cancer immunosurveillance and evasion mechanisms: This section will be a breeze if you have taken any other immunology papers or know what the different immune cells do. 1st lecture on immunosurveillance gives an overview on how the immune system functions to detect cancer cells. 2nd lecture goes in depth on many different immune evasion mechanisms.
Metastasis: Was covered more in depth in BIOSCI356 – might be a bit confusing as there is a lot of detail which you don’t really need to know, just stick with the big ideas and concepts (seed and soil factors etc.).
Overview of chemotherapy: Very unlikely to be examined for the final exam – lecture goes over the main types of cancer treatment available.