First-Year Seminar: The Biology of Cancer


Cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide. In spite of focused research efforts, cancer still poses a unique biomedical puzzle as it is now recognized that cancer is not a single disease, but rather a collection of many disorders with underlying mechanistic complexities that can affect most tissues in the human body. This interactive 1st-semester course provides an introductory overview of the biology, diagnosis, and treatment of human cancers. We touch upon background topics in DNA structure and replication, gene regulation and transcription, protein synthesis, mutations and DNA repair, but the primary focus is on the genetic and molecular changes that normal cells undergo during transformation into malignant cancer cells, emphasizing the dysfunction of essential biological processes like programmed cell death, cell proliferation, differentiation, and immune surveillance. Classical diagnosis and treatment methods are compared with newer strategies, such as targeted therapies. Finally, the growing role of ""omics"" technologies in tumor classification, patient prognosis, and therapy are discussed. The course is a mix of lectures, student-led discussions/presentations, guest seminars and activities. Lectures provide an overview of each topic, while activities and discussions of cutting-edge oncology topics in the news and primary literature familiarize students with current trends in cancer research/treatment as well as enhance reading and critical analysis skills. Students choose a specific type of cancer for further study and near the end of the semester prepare a presentation to the class on its molecular and cellular etiology, epidemiology, pathology, diagnosis, and current/future treatment options. Midterm Exams, which attendance is required, will be administered on Wednesday, September 23, 6:30 - 8 pm & Wednesday, October 28, 6:30 - 8 pm. Prerequisite: High school biology and chemistry, while completing AP or Honors biology is highly recommended. Gr
Course Attributes: FYS; BU SCI; AS NSM