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Course Review: Inside Cancer


Provider: FutureLearn (UK) [course page]
Lecturer: Dr Momna Hejmadi
Subject: Science / Medicine / Biology / Genetics
Delivery: Intake-based asynchronous study 
Recommended Load: 3 hours / week for 6 weeks 
Completion Date: 03/02/2014

Description: Dr Momna Hejmadi and a team of health professionals discuss the nature of cancer, treatment and role that genetics plays in both.

Strengths: Dr Momna Hejmadi and the team deliver a bunch of really informative lectures and articles on the problem of cancer placing a focus on genetics due to the important role that genetics plays in the development and treatment of cancer. The materials are excellent, staying on track and avoiding lingering on elements too long. This helps with pacing and keeps the material interesting throughout the course. While the staff are careful not to overwhelm the student with information beyond an introductory level, the student is encouraged throughout the course to learn more by way of links to interesting resources, with some mild prompting to learn about the medical programs at The University of Sheffield at the end. Some biology knowledge is quite helpful in understanding some of the concepts but not enough to trouble the student.
Weaknesses: None.

Conclusion: Dr Momna Hejmadi and the team do a wonderful job of making this often difficult subject accessible to students. As mentioned above, the way in which the concepts are covered helps with keeping the course moving forward and making the material genuinely interesting for students. I highly recommend that folks enrol in future intakes of this course as it is worth the time and effort spent watching the videos, reading the articles and going over the other resources. And more importantly is the relevance of a course such as this in understanding the role that genetics plays in the treatment of a host of illnesses.


Author: keikomushi

Reader, Writer, New Media Buff, Anime Fangirl, Gnome Hunter, Last Action Femme Fatale, Appreciator of Nature, Jack-of-all-trades.

2 thoughts on “Course Review: Inside Cancer

  1. What exactly did you come away with, after taking this course?

    • For me, it was a good brush up on cell biology. I did biology in high school, but that was like 17 years ago. With this re-learning of cell biology I was able to understand more clearly the difference between healthy and non-healthy cells. Going over the stuff about programmed cell death, a necessary part of body maintenance, is one of those things that some teachers fail to emphasis the value of, but not so with this course. Programmed cell death is a natural defense against certain forms of illnesses as well, and we are pretty boned if we aren’t able to kill off diseased or age-redundant cells. (The latter is my term not theirs, and refers to changes in our body during development, such as changes to the body during puberty.)
      Knowing that cancer is a series of successful mutations that overrun other body processes is something that we are all probably aware of, but how cancers move to other regions of the body was always a bit of a mystery to me, up until the explanation of Metastasis. Metastasis consists of five stages that end with a microtumour in another part of the body. Thankfully, the process wasn’t overly complicated.
      And then came the bit about how genetics plays a major part in cancer development and treatment. It seems obvious right now, but before the course I didn’t really consider how much our genes can affect the development due to various external and internal elements (such as carcinogens) and in the treatment of cancer in specific parts of the body. Whilst one genetic trait can cause the body to be unresponsive to a drug treatment, another can cause a cancer to become dependent upon a certain drug treatment. Nowadays, the focus seems to be on genetic screening of cancer patients ahead of determining a treatment.
      What did I come away with? I came away with a clearer understanding of cell biology and the role that genetics plays in disease development (growth and resistance) and in treatment. (Genetics has always fascinated me, but Iv’e only recently bothered looking for information online about the subject.) I also come away with a renewed awe for the numerous processes my body goes through in dealing with disease in general. And with this knowledge, I can at least understand what several of my friends have been through during their cancer treatments. I am by no means an expert in cancer now, but understanding the basics helps a lot.

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