biological pathways to

CANCER

The term 'cancer' refers to a group of over 200 diseases, which are characterised by abnormal and uncontrollable growth in a single cell or in a small group of cells. Most cancers arise from acquired gene mutation, however the molecular biology and genetics of cancer is highly complex. This three-hour tutorial will address some of the many biological pathways to cancer and will be beneficial for students reading molecular biology, medicine, biological sciences, biomedical sciences and pharmacology.

 

We will begin with a relatively straight-forward introduction to the basics of cancer, its various forms and epidemiology. We examine the biological and genetic mechanisms that underpin major types of cancer such as breast and colorectal, moving into modern theories of immune dysfunction and epigenetic changes to DNA and its associated proteins. In the second part of the tutorial, we step up a gear, outlining the different classes of gene involved in cancer and the molecular pathways they control, and focusing on the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK), HIF1, Rb and p53 pathways. We consider how gene mutation and epigenetic change can lead to tumour metastasis, reviewing clonal expansion and initiation of neoplasms, and explore the molecular basis of metastasis through its stages. We detail the processes of angiogenesis, intravasation into the circulatory and lymphatic system, and the ultimate extravasation to peripheral tissues that underpins seeding of secondary tumours. Moving forward, we provide a focus on recent research which has explored the important relationship between the tumour cell and the tumour microenvironment (TME) during invasion and transition from micrometastasis to macrometastasis. Here, we introduce the student to new concepts, such as the role of tumour-secreted factors and tumour vascular niche–derived protumourigenic factors, considering their roles in tumour-environment interactions and their possible use in therapeutic interventions. In the final part of the session, we will overview conventional treatments such as  chemotherapy and radiotherapy, before honing in on the mechanism of action of targeted therapies such as the B-Raf enzyme inhibitor venurifenib and monoclonal antibodies such as the angiogenesis inhibitor bevacizumab. In addition to providing students with a wealth of up-to-date exciting and informative research, this tutorial is intended to stimulate thinking, asking questions, developing knowledge and challenging understanding at every step.

For fu
rther information and a programme, please email Dr Guy Sutton at the address in the footer below.

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