84429 - Cancer Biology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Gender equality Clean water and sanitation

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Describe the tumor phenotype, the etiology and pathogenesis of cancer, including interactions with the microenvironment and the immune system, and the progression to metastatic spread. Describe the biological and molecular mechanisms of physical, chemical and biological carcinogenesis. Define the principles of tumor classification, grading, and staging. Outline the principles of cancer epidemiology, and assess the relevance of risk factors.

Course contents


What is cancer? Benign and malignant tumors, Nomenclature
and classifications, Epidemiology: the size of the problem (2 hours)


Oncogenes (2 hours)

Tumor suppressor genes (2 hours)

Hereditary cancer (2 hours)


Cancer hallmarks, Tumor heterogeneity, Tumor progression (2 hours)


Angiogenesis, Microenvironment, Metastatic spread (2 hours)

Tumor immunology (2 hours)


Fundamentals of carcinogenesis, Physical carcinogenesis (2 hours)

Chemical carcinogenesis (2 hours)

Complex mixtures: Tobacco, Alcohol, Diet, Environmental pollution (2 hours)

Biological carcinogenesis (2 hours)


Primary and secondary cancer prevention, Chemoprevention (2 hours)


  • Weinberg: The Biology of Cancer, Garland Science.
  • Pecorino: Molecular Biology of Cancer, Oxford University Press.
  • DeVita, Lawrence, Rosenberg: Cancer, Principles and Practice of Oncology, LWW.

Teaching methods


Attendance to learning activities is mandatory; the minimum attendance requirement to be admitted to the final exam is 60% of lessons. For Integrated Courses (IC), the 60% attendance requirement refers to the total amount of I.C. lessons. Students who fail to meet the minimum attendance requirement will not be admitted to the final exam of the course, and will have to attend relevant classes again during the next academic year.

Professors may authorize excused absences upon receipt of proper justifying documentation, in case of illness or serious reasons. Excused absences do not count against a student’s attendance record to determine their minimum attendance requirement.

Assessment methods

The oral exam of Cancer Biology will cover all the subjects of the course. The student has to answer questions to demonstrate his/her knowledge of specific subjects, the ability to understand the links between different parts of the course, and the use of appropriate terminology.

Gradation of the final grade:

Insufficient: lack of preparation. Serious and repeated conceptual errors.

18-19: knowledge of the basic concepts without serious gaps. Exposition of concepts and language as a whole acceptable.

20-24: knowledge of the basic concepts without gaps. Ability to analyze and link in partial autonomy. Exposure of discrete concepts and language.

25-29: preparation of good or very good level or even excellent preparation but with inaccuracies in the presentation that compromise the achievement of full marks. Ability to analyze and link independently. Exposure of concepts in the right succession and mastery of the language.

30-30L: full preparation, consolidated and without inaccuracies on the topics covered in the course. Ability to promptly frame the topic. Ability to analyze and connect independently. Concepts in the right succession and full command of the specific language.



The whole exam of Neoplasia as Disease Model will include three parts:
 Histopathology: Analysis of one slide
 Cancer Biology: 1 question
 Oncological Pharmacology; 1 question
Written (Multiple choice, 4 answers, 1 point for each correct answer, no penalty for wrong answers)
 Medical oncology: 15 questions
 General Surgery: 5 questions
 Oncological Radiology: 5 questions
 Clinical Psychology: 5 questions

Histopathology: max 30 points, weight 1/11
Cancer Biology, max 30 points, weight 3/11
Oncological Pharmacology, max 30 points, weight 1/11
Written part: 1 point for each question, max 30 points total, weight: 6/11
Final mark: (Written*6/11) + Histopathology/11 + (Biology*3/11) + Pharmacology/11
Full marks in all parts => 30 cum laude

To pass the exam the student must obtain a pass mark in each discipline, i.e.
Histopathology: at least 18/30
Biology: at least 18/30
Pharmacology: at least 18/30
Medical Oncology: at least 8/15 correct answers
Surgery: at least 3/5 correct answers
Radiology: at least 3/5 correct answers
Psychology: at least 3/5 correct answers


Teaching tools

All the slides used for lectures are made available to the students.

Office hours

See the website of Pier Luigi Lollini