Course Title

Cancer Biology and Therapy

Course Code


Offered Study Year 3, Semester 1
Course Coordinator Melissa Fullwood (Asst Prof) 6516 5381
Pre-requisites BS2004
AU 3
Contact hours Lectures: 22, Tutorials: 13, Technology-enhanced Learning: 6, Laboratories: 6
Approved for delivery from AY 2022/23 semester 1
Last revised 30 Mar 2022, 15:53

Course Aims

The course will survey the genes and gene products which control cellular proliferation, and the genetic changes that lead to the various stages of cancer. You will apply this information by studying real or imagined experiments and proposing hypotheses to explain the results. You will think broadly about the molecular mechanisms regulating cell function and how these are assessed experimentally. You will apply your understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating cancer cells to understand how therapies can be developed to target cancer. You will read and critically analyze publications about cancer biology. Learning will be accomplished through a combination of traditional lectures, tutorials (including "journal club"), online learning and lab practicals.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon successfully completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Describe, interpret and discuss journal articles in cancer biology.
  2. Explain the major underlying mechanisms responsible for cancer and the mechanism of action of anti-cancer drugs.
  3. Explain the technologies and methods used to study cancer and develop cancer therapies.

Course Content

The major underlying mechanisms responsible for cancer.

Examples of technologies and methods to study cancer and develop cancer therapies.

The major historical breakthroughs that led to a better understanding of cancer.

The mechanism of action of several anti-cancer drugs


Component Course ILOs tested SBS Graduate Attributes tested Weighting Team / Individual Assessment Rubrics
Continuous Assessment
Presentation 1, 2, 3 2. e, f
3. b, g
5. a, b, c, e
6. c
7. a, b, c
50 team See Appendix for rubric
Examination (2.5 hours)
Multiple Choice Questions 1, 2, 3 2. e, f
3. g
4. c
5. a, c
45 individual
Short Answer Questions 1, 2, 3 2. e, f
3. g
4. c
5. a, c
5 individual See Appendix for rubric
Total 100%

These are the relevant SBS Graduate Attributes.

2. Critically evaluate and analyze biological information by applying the knowledge, scientific methods and technical skills associated with the discipline

e. Analyze the validity of qualitative and quantitative scientific data

f. Evaluate results in primary biological literature

3. Develop and communicate biological ideas and concepts relevant in everyday life for the benefit of society

b. Display and explain scientific results clearly and persuasively to peers both verbally and in writing (includes the ability to graph data appropriately and accurately).

g. Demonstrate an understanding of the history of ideas and development of the major fields of biology

4. Acquire transferable and entrepreneurial skills for career development

c. Demonstrate a flair for conducting research

5. Develop communication, creative and critical thinking skills for life-long learning

a. Learn independently and then share that knowledge with others

b. Learn collaboratively and be willing to share expertise with peers

c. Demonstrate critical thinking skills such as analysis, discrimination, logical reasoning, prediction and transforming knowledge

e. Demonstrate good observation skills and a curiosity about the world

6. Develop codes of social responsibility and scientific ethics, particularly in relation to biological advancement and applications

c. Respect regulations involving plagiarism and copyright

7. Demonstrate information literacy and technological fluency

a. Locate and evaluate information needed to make decisions, solve problems, design experiments, and understand scientific data

b. Work effectively with common technologies in biology

c. Evaluate and use biological databases (literature and public datasets)

Formative Feedback

- You will complete Technology-Enabled Learning exercises that will give you feedback and cover learning outcomes 1,2,3.

- You will complete a group presentation during the tutorials which will cover the intended learning outcomes and get feedback on the learning outcomes 1,2,3

- The Examiner's Report for the BS3004 Final Exam will be uploaded to NTU E-learn after the exam period. The Final Exam will cover the intended learning outcomes 1,2,3.

Learning and Teaching Approach

(22 hours)

Lectures will present experimental observations from classic experiments and describe, interpret and discuss the results (learning outcome #1). Lectures will describe the major underlying mechanisms responsible for cancer and the mechanism of action of anti-cancer drugs (learning outcome #2). Lectures will explain the technologies and methods used to study cancer and develop cancer therapies (learning outcome #3).

(13 hours)

There will be tutorials to work through practice problems, and group discussions and presentations by students, on cancer biology (learning outcomes #1-3). There will also be graded technology-enhanced learning exercises, which will be part of the evaluation for the class, and the answers will be discussed during tutorials. The presentations will be part of the evaluation for the class.

Technology-enhanced Learning
(6 hours)

The TEL will contain homework questions to assess your understanding of cancer biology (learning outcomes #1,#2,#3).

(6 hours)

The practical will involve experiments. The laboratory will demonstrate in detail a method to study cancer (learning outcome #3). The wet lab laboratory experiments will be further integrated, discussed and assessed in the Technology-Enabled Learning Exercises.

Reading and References

1. Weinberg, R.A. The Biology of Cancer (Garland Science) (2nd edition), Garland Science, May 15, 2013, ISBN: 9780815342205
2. Bryant et al., "Specific killing of BRCA2-deficient tumours with inhibitors of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase." Nature, 2005, ISSN: 0028-0836 & EISSN: 1476-4687
3. Farmer et al., "Targeting the DNA repair defect in BRCA mutant cells as a therapeutic strategy." Nature, ISSN: 0028-0836 & EISSN: 1476-4687
4. Delmore et al., "BET Bromodomain Inhibition as a Therapeutic Strategy to Target c-Myc." Cell, 2011 Sep 16; 146(6): 904–917. Published online 2011 Sep 1. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.08.017

Course Policies and Student Responsibilities

You are expected to complete all assigned activities, attend all classes punctually and take all scheduled assignments and tests by due dates. You are expected to take responsibility to follow up with course notes, assignments and course related announcements for lectures you have missed. You are expected to actively participate in class discussions and activities.

Academic Integrity

Good academic work depends on honesty and ethical behaviour. The quality of your work as a student relies on adhering to the principles of academic integrity and to the NTU Honour Code, a set of values shared by the whole university community. Truth, Trust and Justice are at the core of NTU’s shared values.

As a student, it is important that you recognize your responsibilities in understanding and applying the principles of academic integrity in all the work you do at NTU. Not knowing what is involved in maintaining academic integrity does not excuse academic dishonesty. You need to actively equip yourself with strategies to avoid all forms of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, academic fraud, collusion and cheating. If you are uncertain of the definitions of any of these terms, you should go to the Academic Integrity website for more information. Consult your instructor(s) if you need any clarification about the requirements of academic integrity in the course.

Course Instructors

Instructor Office Location Phone Email
Melissa Fullwood (Asst Prof) Cancer Science Institute, NUS 6516 5381

Planned Weekly Schedule

Week Topic Course ILO Readings/ Activities

The Nature of Cancer

1, 2, 3



Oncogenes & Tumor Suppressors

1, 2, 3



Tumor Suppressors

1, 2, 3

Lectures. Tutorials. TEL.


Cancer Therapies I

1, 2, 3

Tutorials. TEL.


Cancer Therapies II

1, 2, 3

Tutorials. TEL.


Journal Club 1

1, 2, 3

Tutorials. TEL.


Journal Club 1

1, 2, 3

Tutorials. TEL.


Lab Practical

1, 2, 3

Practical. TEL.


Course Review 1

1, 2, 3



Journal Club 2

1, 2, 3



Journal Club 2

1, 2, 3



3D genome organization

1, 2, 3

Lectures. Tutorial.


Course Review 2

1, 2, 3


Appendix 1: Assessment Rubrics

Rubric for Tutorials: Presentation (50%)

Exceeding standards (30-40 marks): The students have (1) a clear introduction that provides all the necessary details for students to understand the paper, (2) clearly explained aims and hypotheses (3) clearly explained significance (4) clearly explained materials and methods and (5) clearly explained the figures of the paper with a clear discussion of the work and further work that can be performed to extend the findings of the paper. The presentation is clear, well organized and every part of the essay contributes to the reader’s understanding of the topic. The presentation clearly demonstrates critical thinking on the part of the students. All questions were properly addressed and the answers were very clear. The teamwork and cohesion of the group was excellent. The students gave good suggestions and feedback to other groups.

Meeting standards (15-30 marks): The students can give (1) a somewhat clear introduction that provides some but not all the necessary details for students to understand the paper, (2) somewhat clearly explained aims and hypotheses (3) somewhat clearly explained significance (4) somewhat clearly explained materials and methods and (5) somewhat clearly explained the figures of the paper with some attempt to discuss the results. The presentation is somewhat clear, and attempts are made to organize the presentation with just a few meanderings off topic. The presentation somewhat demonstrates critical thinking on the part of the students. The question and answer session was somewhat clear and most questions could be properly addressed. There was some evidence of teamwork. There were attempts to give suggestions to other groups.

Approaching standards (0-14 marks): The students give (1) an unclear, confused introduction that serves to confuse the reader further and give details that are irrelevant for understanding the paper (2) unclear aims and hypotheses or they omit the hypotheses (3) unclear significance or they omit the significance (4) unclear explanation of the materials and methods used and (5) unclear explanation of figures with little to no discussion of the results. The presentation does not demonstrate critical thinking of the part of the students. The question and answer session did not make sense. There was little or no teamwork, for example, one or two group members would forget their parts, or one person would dominate the discussion. There were almost no suggestions given to other groups, or the suggestions made did not show critical thinking.

Penalties: -1 mark for every late day -1 mark for a presentation that does too far over the time limit or the slide limit. All figures (including the journal article itself) must be referenced, otherwise this will be penalized (-1 mark).

All members in the group will typically receive the same marks. However, in the unusual case that a group member fails to perform his or her role, with the support of firm evidence, the instructor reserves the right to give this student a lower mark in the group tutorial presentation.

Rubric for Examination: Short Answer Questions (5%)

The BS3004 final exam is an open-book exam. It will consist of multiple choice questions (45 marks) and a short answer question (5 marks). The open-book exam will allow for students to exercise more critical thinking skills and be less dependent on memorization abilities.

Appendix 2: Intended Affective Outcomes

As a result of this course, it is expected you will develop the following "big picture" attributes:

Appreciate the importance of basic biological understanding in applied research to develop new treatments

Appreciate that cancer is a complex disease requiring a multi-pronged and multidisciplinary approach, and the cooperation of different groups in society, for effective cancer prevention and treatment

Become more aware of the complexities of conducting biological research in the lab through lab practicals.

Become more aware of the importance of teamwork and discussion through tutorials

Become more aware of the importance of oral presentations through tutorials

Appreciate the complexities and importance of understanding journal papers through lectures, tutorials and examinations