Introduction to the Biology of Cancer


Over 500,000 people in the United States and over 8 million people worldwide are dying every year from cancer. As people live longer, the incidence of cancer is rising worldwide and the disease is expected to strike over 20 million people annually by 2030. This open course is designed for people who would like to develop an understanding of cancer and how it is prevented, diagnosed, and treated.

The course introduces the molecular biology of cancer (oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes) as well as the biologic hallmarks of cancer. The course also describes the risk factors for the major cancers worldwide, including lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, and stomach cancer. We explain how cancer is staged, the major ways cancer is found by imaging, and how the major cancers are treated.
In addition to the core materials, this course includes two Honors lessons devoted to cancers of the liver and prostate.
Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
– Identify the major types of cancer worldwide. (Lecture 1)
– Describe how genes contribute to the risk and growth of cancer. (Lecture 2)
– List and describe the ten cellular hallmarks of cancer. (Lecture 3)
– Define metastasis, and identify the major steps in the metastatic process. (Lecture 4)
– Describe the role of imaging in the screening, diagnosis, staging, and treatments of cancer. (Lecture 5)
– Explain how cancer is treated. (Lecture 6)
We hope that this course gives you a basic understanding of cancer biology and treatment. The course is not designed for patients seeking treatment guidance – but it can help you understand how cancer develops and provides a framework for understanding cancer diagnosis and treatment.

What you will learn

Incidence and Etiology of Cancer

In this first week, we’ll get a high-level introduction to the basics of cancer biology as well as incidence and common types of cancer.

Genetics of Cancer

Now, we’ll turn our attention to the genetics of cancer, variation and mutation, two-hit hypothesis, and genomic instability.

Ten Cellular Hallmarks of Cancer

All cancers share ten cellular hallmarks. This week, you’ll learn to identify these hallmarks in order to distinguish a normal cell from a cancerous cell.

Metastasis: The Real Killer

The lethal agent of cancer is metastasis. This week, we’ll take a good look at this deadly event, TNM staging, the metastatic process, and an ecological paradigm.

What’s included