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Cancer Biology

Course Code: BIOL 4100
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course describes the genetic and molecular mechanisms involved in the development of cancer. Topics include analysis of mutations in cancer cells and the effect of mutations on underlying processes such as cell division, proliferation and apoptosis. The prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer are introduced including both classical and targeted treatment strategies. The roles of genomics and bioinformatics in classification, prognosis and treatment are explained and discussed.

Course Content

 1. Introduction

  • The definition of cancer

  • Major features of normal cell processes such as the cell cycle, cell division, differentiation, senescence, and apoptosis

  • Changes in normal cell processes during cancer development

  • Overview of the multistep nature of cancer from genetic mutation to metastasis

2. Genetic Alterations in Cancer: Mechanisms

  • Roles of environmental factors and epigenetics on genomic expression

  • Roles of viruses and bacteria

  • Roles of inflammation

3. Genetic Alterations: Oncogenes

  • Discovery and definition of oncogenes

  • Different types of oncogenes (growth factors, growth factor receptors, signal transducers, gene promoters) and their activation

  • Roles of various oncogenes during cellular transformation and metastasis

4. Genetic Alterations: Tumor Suppressor Genes

  • Discovery and definition of tumor suppressor genes

  • Examples of tumor suppressor genes and their roles in various cancers

  • Tumor suppressor genes as recessive alleles versus oncogenes as dominant alleles

5. Genetic Alterations: Chromosomal

  • Types of Chromosomal mutations including deletions, additions, frameshift and translocations in cancer

  • Roles of telomeres in senescence and immortalization

  • Roles of DNA repair during the evolution of cancer

6. Cancer as an Evolutionary Problem

  • Environmental effects

  • Types of genetic and chromosomal alterations

  • Definition of angiogenesis, its activation and roles in tumor progression

  • The multistep nature of cancer in detail from the conversion of normal cells to the formation of metastatic cells and their spread.

7. Treatment of Cancer

  • Traditional chemotherapy at various points in the metastatic cascade

  • Benefits and limitations of traditional chemotherapies

  • The role of the immune system in treating cancer including vaccinations

  • Treatment targeted therapies

  • The rationale for various targets and the benefits and limitations of each

  • Genomics and proteomic therapies for the prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of cancer

Methods of Instruction

This course involves 4 hours of lecture instruction per week.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:



Quizzes and assignments   


Term examination 1


Term examination 2


Final examination




Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain the alterations of normal cellular and molecular mechanisms including those of the cell cycle during the development of cancer.
  2. Explain the types of cancerous mutations that occur during the dysregulation of normal cellular and molecular processes.

  3.  Explain the types and roles of various oncogenes during cancer development.

  4.  Explain the roles of tumor suppressor genes in the evolution of cancer.

  5.  Explain the roles of chromosomal aberrations and altered DNA repair in carcinogenesis.

  6.  Explain the roles of the environment on cancer development and how this knowledge can be used to prevent cancer.

  7.  Explain carcinogenesis as an evolutionary process from first mutations to metastasis.

  8.  Explain the aspects of cancer that lead to high mortality rates.

  9.  Explain the rationale, benefits and limitations for various traditional and novel targeted treatments.

  10.  Describe current and future strategies to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer such as genomics, proteomics and vaccinations.

course prerequisites

(BIOL 2321 or BIOL 3205) AND EITHER (BIOL 1103 and BIOL 1203) OR (BIOL 1109 and 1209) OR BIOL 2103



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.