Summer 2019 - BPK 431 D100

Integrative Cancer Biology (3)

Class Number: 4485

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    AQ 3149, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 6, 2019
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    RCB 8100, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 231 (or MBB 201) and at least 90 units.



Core concepts in cancer biology ranging from the clinical and pathological basis of carcinogenesis to the molecular and cellular changes involved in cancer development. Emphasis will be on the complex interactions of lifestyle factors, genetics and social cultural determinants on cancer risk.


2 hour lecture, 1 hour tutorial (13 weeks)  

The purpose of this class is to introduce the student to core concepts in the field of carcinogenesis. Classwork covers topics ranging from the clinical basis of carcinogenesis to molecular and cellular changes involved in cancer development.  This course will provide the students with the background information and terminology that is central to the understanding of cancer as a chronic disease process that is potentially preventable.  It also will provide students with a broad framework upon which they can interpret new knowledge on cancer development and treatment and how to assess its credibility.  

Each week has a 3-hour time block, with the first two hours lecture and discussion-based. The third hour each week will be devoted to activities that will focus on content review, discussions, student assignments, individual and group projects.  


  • Introduction – What is cancer?
  • Prevention of cancer through screening and early diagnosis
  • Clinical and histological classifications and staging of cancer
  • Cancer treatment and evaluation of outcome: the role of new technology
  • Cancer as a multi-stage phenomenon: Initiation, promotion and progression
  • Biomarkers of exposure to carcinogens
  • Genetic predisposition to cancer/DNA repair systems
  • Role of biological agents: Infection, inflammation and cancer
  • How cancer spreads – metastasis models
  • Epidemiological concepts – identifying the cause of cancer and predicting risk
  • Oncogenes – contribution to uncontrolled cell proliferation and cancer
  • Suppressor genes – association of inactivation with cancer development
  • Non-genetic contributors to cancer: epigenetic regulation and tumour microenvironment
  • Cancer Story: Prostate cancer – across the continuum of care
  • New drug development and steps to marketing
  • Challenge presentations  


Course Learning Outcomes:

  • Describe fundamental concepts & terminology that underpin our understanding of cancer development and its control, i.e. the accepted “bed rock” of the cancer literature. These concepts are presented as they pertain to the different disciplines and specialties involved in cancer research, prevention and care, from clinical to lab science to population application.
  • Interpret and apply knowledge of core concepts to real-life situations
  • Identify gaps in knowledge within these perspectives 
  • Search for potential solutions to gaps & critique them against known primary research  
Specific Topic Outcomes (Individual Lectures):
  • Describe and critique different facets of cancer prevention, including the assessment of the lifetime exposome, risk analysis of exposures, harm reduction strategies, and early disease detection.
  • Understand the biology behind the evolution of cancer and precancer screening, its ramifications, and its pros and cons.
  • Describe current clinical and pathological frameworks that are used to diagnose and treat cancer.
  • Critique the role that emerging prognostic markers may have in predicting outcome and guiding treatment of premalignant lesions and cancers.
  • Understand how changes in key biological processes drive carcinogenesis, at the cellular, tissue and systemic level
  • Understand the role that genetic and epigenetic change play in the continuum of change occurring in cancer development, e.g. how gene change alters cellular and tissue function, speeds up rate of cancer development.
  • Understand the translational processes of cancer knowledge - how laboratory findings are translated into the clinic and how the clinic informs new research areas
  • Understand the processes involved in new drug development and its path to clinical care  


  • Mid-term exam 25%
  • Final exam 30%
  • Tutorial assignments 10%
  • “The Challenge” 35%


Exams: Exams will cover lectures, assigned readings, and class discussions. Format will include a combination of short answer questions (e.g., definitions, matching, multiple choice questions) to test understanding of key concepts/frameworks and longer questions aimed at testing knowledge integration and application.    

Tutorial assignments: In class exercises, take home assignments, to “drill down” on subject matter discussed in lectures. Class activities are aimed at exposing students to creative ways of learning and communicating concepts (skits, icons, concept maps, story boards).  

“The Challenge”: This project was developed to provide an opportunity for each individual student to select and explore an evolving approach identified in the media that is aimed at cancer research and control. The project is game-like, rolled out throughout course in a stepwise fashion, with grading for activities as achieved.  It has written and oral components, individual and group work. It is meant to be engaging, to expand knowledge on the evaluation process for new ideas and to encourage personal creativity.



Lewis J. Kleinsmith. Principles of Cancer Biology. Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco Robert A. Weinberg. The Biology of Cancer  

Department Undergraduate Notes:

It is the responsibility of the student to keep their BPK course outlines if they plan on furthering their education.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.