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An Introduction to Cancer Research

Course details

From £215.00
10 CATS points

24 Jan 2020 - 27 Mar 2020
Day of week

An Introduction to Cancer Research


"Cancer, noun: a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body."

And yet, it's so much more than that.  In this course we will explore cancer and how today's scientists are developing new ways to treat this ancient disease.  

We will begin our exploration by understanding what cancer is in detail.  We will understand how cancer cells work as individuals and how they work together as a tumour.  Once we have understood the malignant cells themselves we will explore how these cells can communicate with and control otherwise healthy cells to help the cancer cells thrive.  We will explore how each tumour will be different and the ways tomorrow's medics might be able to gain an insight into what makes an individual's tumour unique.

With a good understanding of our enemy we will be able to explore how scientists are developing new ways to use old ideas:  radiotherapy, surgery and chemotherapy.  We will also look at some ideas that are new to this century: immunotherapy, viruses and physically targeted drug delivery.

In cancer research, science must change clinical practice.  That doesn't happen if you can't prove how effective your ideas are with real patients.  We will explore how we try to answer the most important question ... Does it work?

The course will end with an opportunity to visit our research labs and meet the scientists who do the work.

Programme details

Courses starts: 24 Jan 2020

Week 1:  Cancer cells - how to be a runaway success story.

Week 2:  How cells work and how they go wrong.

Week 3:  The cancer microenvironment - subverting normality.

Week 4:  Making it personal - imaging and biomarkers.

Week 5:  Tackling the problem 1 - Radiotherapy.

Week 6:  Tackling the Problem 2 - Chemotherapy and targeted drugs.

Week 7:  Tackling the problem 3 - Immunotherapy

Week 8:  Tackling the problem 4 - Surgery, viruses, and bubbles.

Week 9:  That's great, but does it work?  Clinical Trials.

Week 10:  Lab Tour


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £215.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Martin Christlieb

Martin is the public engagement manager for the Department of Oncology at Oxford.  Before that he was involved in research to develop cancer imaging.  In his spare time he is a mountaineer, climber and the Adventure Training Officer for Thames Valley Air Cadets.

Course aims

Participants will gain a basic understanding of cancer as we understand it in 2019.  They will be introduced to how these ideas are empowering researchers to develop new treatments, both new takes on old ideas and completely new approaches.

Course Objectives:

1 - Participants will be able to discuss the basics of how cancer works.

2 - Participants will be able to discuss approaches to personalising medicine.

3 - Participants will be able to discuss the basics of 4 treatment approaches and the ways we evaluate their effectiveness.

Teaching methods

Each session will consist of a mixture of presentations by the tutor with plenty of opportunities to question and discuss points raised.  The tutors will ask the participants to discuss ideas in pairs or threes and feed their ideas back to the group for wider discussion.  Where possible, short problems or table-top exercises will be used to consolidate understanding and help participants explore the topic interactively.

Learning outcomes

1. Participants will be able to discuss the basic biology of cancer.

2. Participants will be able to list the main imaging methods available and discuss their uses in personalising medicine.

3. Participants will be able to give a basic description of radiotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy approaches, and guided surgery.

Assessment methods

The course will involve continuous assessment by discussion and questions.  Participants will be asked to take part in peer-group discussions and to tackle exercises to assess and consolidate their understanding.  This continuous assessment will be unobtrusive and designed to be enjoyed.

Participants will be invited to submit a formative essay after 5-weeks and feedback will be offered on essays received.  Participants will be offered a chance to submit a final summative essay after 10 weeks.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

This course will assume no previous knowledge and will be accessible to everyone from GCSE age and up.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)