Queen's University
BMED 380 Evolutionary Biology of Cancer

BMED 380, Evolutionary Biology of Cancer is a third-year online course designed to introduce students from various biological sciences and allied health backgrounds to cancer as an evolutionary problem. The course focuses on the effect of the local tumour environment on the progression of cancer and uniquely emphasizes the impact of the immune system in fighting cancer while at the same time shaping tumour cell evolution. In addition, the course will cover the effect on malignant progression of other factors present in the tumour environment, such as oxygenation levels.

Minimum 3rd year (level 3) standing and one of (MICR 270/3.0 OR MICR 360/3.0) and one of (BCHM 270/3.0 OR BCHM 218/3.0) or equivalent courses with permission from the instructor.

Teaching strategies for BMED 380 will include provided online materials, live discussions and individual assignment submissions via BrightSpace (onQ).

After completing BMED 380 Evolutionary Biology of Cancer, students will be able to:

  1. Recognize the impact of cancer on society and major milestones in cancer research to appreciate the successes of therapies and to assess the need for further development.
  2. Acquire a basic understanding of the evolutionary nature of cancer to recognize and evaluate the contribution of tumour heterogeneity and plasticity to cancer progression.
  3. Analyze the tumour microenvironment to define its role in tumour invasion and its link to metastasis.
  4. Characterize the role of immunity and inflammation in cancer and to define their contributions to cancer control or progression.
  5. To apply an understanding of therapeutic selectivity to identify and evaluate the potential benefits and adverse effects of different therapeutic interventions in cancer.


As Collaborators, health professionals work effectively with other health care professionals to provide safe, high-quality, patient-centred care.


As Communicators, health professionals form relationships with patients and their families* that facilitate the gathering and sharing of essential information for effective health care.


As Scholars, health professionals demonstrate a lifelong commitment to excellence in practice through continuous learning and by teaching others, evaluating evidence, and contributing to scholarship.


As Professionals, health professionals are committed to the health and well-being of individual patients and society through ethical practice, high personal standards of behaviour, accountability to the profession and society, physician-led regulation, and maintenance of personal health.

Assessment 1 – Discussion Board Posts (15%)

Students will post weekly responses to discussion questions related to module content. They will be evaluated on both the quality of their post and their responses to their peers.

Assessment 2 – Written Assignment: Prostate Cancer Case Study (20%)

In this multi-part assignment, students will be given a hypothetical case study pertaining to either prostate or ovarian cancer. The case study will follow the patient’s journey from diagnosis. Students will be responsible for answering questions that will be used to evaluate their understanding of material covered throughout each section of the course. This assignment will prompt students to consider unique aspects of cancer progression and treatment specific to their assigned case study.

Assessment 3 – Powerpoint Presentation (40%)

In this assignment, students will connect ideas learned in modules to study the molecular mechanisms relating regulatory B cells to malignant progression and metastasis. They will present their findings in a narrated powerpoint, and include research obtained from a primary paper.

Assessment 4- Section Quiz (25%)

Three section tests will be administered at the end of each learning topic. Section tests will be in the form of multiple choice question and/or short answer questions that will test the student’s understanding of the material covered.

Required Texts

BMED 380 course notes via modules will be posted online and select readings will be made available by the instructor.

Queen’s students, faculty, administrators and staff all have responsibilities for supporting and upholding the fundamental values of academic integrity. Academic integrity is constituted by the five core fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility (see http://www.academicintegrity.org) and by the quality of courage. These values and qualities are central to the building, nurturing and sustaining of an academic community in which all members of the community will thrive. Adherence to the values expressed through academic integrity forms a foundation for the "freedom of inquiry and exchange of ideas" essential to the intellectual life of the University.

Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with and adhering to the regulations concerning academic integrity. General information on academic integrity is available at Integrity@Queen's University, along with Faculty or School specific information. Departures from academic integrity include, but are not limited to, plagiarism, use of unauthorized materials, facilitation, forgery and falsification. Actions which contravene the regulation on academic integrity carry sanctions that can range from a warning, to loss of grades on an assignment, to failure of a course, to requirement to withdraw from the university.

Specifically, for BMED 380 Evolutionary Biology of Cancer, students must express themselves in their own words, and cite sources when they use outside information. Verbatim copying of the module text or textbook is considered plagiarism and is a breach of academic integrity. Further, lying and misrepresentation are dishonest and violate the core values of academic integrity.

All components of this course will receive numerical percentage marks. The final grade received for the course will be derived by converting the student’s numerical course average to a letter grade according to Queen’s Official Grade Conversion Scale.