Spring 2021 - MBB 446 D100

The Molecular Biology of Cancer (3)

Class Number: 2532

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 11 – Apr 16, 2021: Tue, Thu, 8:30–10:20 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    MBB 322 and 331, with a minimum grade of C, or permission of the instructor.



An examination of the molecular mechanisms that contribute to tumor formation, the hallmarks of cancer and their relationship to therapeutic strategies.


This course introduces the molecular biology of cancer, and how our understanding of cancer initiation and progression has evolved at the molecular and cellular levels. We will study the hallmarks of cancer, tumor progression, signal transduction pathways, cell death modalities, and cell survival processes, and how these have informed the design of cancer treatment strategies.

Topics will include the following:  

  • Hallmarks of Cancer
  • Infectious agents and cancer
  • Oncogenes and Tumor Suppressors
  • Cancer progression and metastasis
  • Cancer stem cells and clonality
  • Cell death signaling pathways
  • Autophagy: dual roles in cancer
  • Biomarkers
  • Anti-cancer therapeutics  

In addition, we will explore recent selected special topics related to emerging concepts and recent therapeutic strategies.
These may include:  
  • Epigenetic alterations
  • Personalized Oncogenomics
  • Cancer Immunotherapy
  • Tumour microenvironment


  • Class exams (3x20%) 60%
  • Two short writing assignments 30%
  • Class participation 10%


Lectures: blended (synchronous lectures, attendance is not mandatory; recorded and available online for asynchronous viewing)
Assessments:  blended; both synchronous (mandatory attendance) and asynchronous assessments
Final exam:  No
Remote invigilation: No



  • Access to high-speed internet
  • Computer (webcam optional)
  • need to view PDF files and listen to MP4 audio files, may need Microsoft Word and PowerPoint


This course will be based largely on primary literature and review articles.


The Biology of Cancer, 2nd Ed, Robert A. Weinberg, 2014, Garland Publishing (for background reading).
ISBN: 978-0-8153-4220-5

Department Undergraduate Notes:

  • For help with writing, learning and study strategies please contact the Student Learning Commons at
  • Students requiring accommodations as a result of a disability, must contact the Centre for Accessible Learning (778-782-3112 or e-mail:  caladmin@sfu.ca)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).