MEDSCI 714 : Advanced Cancer Biology

Medical and Health Sciences

2021 Semester One (1213) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Advanced studies of concepts related to the biology of cancer. These will include: molecular mechanisms, signal transduction pathways, genomic instability, telomeres and telomerase, anoikis, DNA damage sensing mechanisms, and hypoxia and tumour progression.

Course Overview

MEDSCI 714 takes an in-depth look at the biological processes that drive cancer initiation and progression. Recent discoveries in cancer research are providing new approaches for treatment, diagnosis and prevention of this disease. Students will develop an in-depth understanding of topics including DNA damage repair, tumour microenvironmental alterations, monitoring of circulating tumour DNA, kinase signalling, leukaemia and lymphoma biology and epigenetic/metabolic dysfunction. This course will highlight advances in these areas using lectures, case studies, in-class activities and individual and group student presentations.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: MEDSCI 302

Course Contacts

Dr Dean Singleton
Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre & Molecular Medicine and Pathology
Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The University of Auckland
85 Park Road
Auckland 1023
New Zealand

Phone: +64 9 923 7726

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Compare and contrast the molecular mechanisms employed by our cells to sense and respond to different forms of DNA damage (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  2. Summarise the numerous stromal-derived components of the tumour microenvironment that act to establish inflammatory and immunosuppressive changes that enable cancer progression (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of protein and lipid kinase activity in cancer and how targeting these pathways using kinase inhibitors is providing new insights into the biology of cell signalling (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  4. Discuss how normal haematopoiesis is dysregulated during leukaemia and lymphoma pathogenesis highlighting the genomic features that characterise these diseases (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  5. Explain how cellular metabolic and epigenetic processes are reorganised in cancer cells and why these changes occur in different disease contexts (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  6. Understand and critically evaluate how circulating tumour DNA can be used to detect and diagnose cancer and monitor disease progression and response to therapy (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  7. Explain and critically evaluate recent articles from the cancer literature, summarising the research and providing a critical assessment of the methodology, results and significance of the work (Capability 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1 and 5.2)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Essay 20% Individual Coursework
Presentation 15% Group & Individual Coursework
Test 15% Individual Test
Final Exam 50% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures, 4 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 4 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation per typical teaching week.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at scheduled activities including lectures to complete the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events.
Attendance on campus is required for the test and exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Insufficient responses were received in 2020 (4/15) so feedback to teaching staff was not provided.

Other Information

Lecturers and lecture topics
Associate Professor Michael Hay
•    DNA Damage Sensing Mechanisms and Responses: Repair of Complex DNA Lesions
Dr Kimiora Henare
•    Tumour Microenvironment I: Building a Pro-Tumour Niche
•    Tumour Microenvironment II: Inflammation and Immune Suppression
Professor Peter Shepherd
•    Cancer Therapies Targeting Protein and Lipid Kinases
Dr Maggie Kalev
•    Biology of Acute Leukaemia
•    Lymphoma Biology
Professor Stefan Bohlander
•    Genetics of Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Dr Cherie Blenkiron
•    Monitoring Disease Progression and Response to Therapy using Circulating Tumour DNA (ctDNA)
Dr Dean Singleton
•    Epigenetic Dysregulation in Cancer: Effects of Altered Metabolism and Tumour Hypoxia on Epigenetic Organisation
•    Epigenetic Dysregulation in Cancer: Histone Modification and Chromatin Remodelling
Dr Tet-Woo Lee
•    Uncovering Cancer Dependencies using Functional Genomics

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 15/01/2021 09:58 a.m.