This website will provide access to the chapters of the Cancer Concepts textbook. The Cancer Concepts course is part of the Foundations of Medicine I and Foundations of Medicine II curriculum at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Cancer Concepts is a case-based course that features a combination of lectures and small group sessions covering the basic pathophysiology of malignancy. Each “cancer concept” is introduced or related back to one or more specific clinical cases. Students discuss assigned readings and participate in virtual laboratories, offering high-resolution digitized pathology “slides” and three-dimensional anatomic displays of various malignancies to understand cancer at the cellular, tissue, organ and organism levels. Introductions are provided to the three clinical disciplines of oncology (radiation oncology, surgical oncology and medical oncology) as well as the epidemiology and societal implications of cancer.
The textbook is a work in progress and new book chapters will be added regularly.
List of Cancer Concepts chapters:
Richard J. Homer
Over eighty different compounds have been approved to treat cancer. Their mechanisms of action, effectiveness against specific cancers, and potential toxicity vary greatly. This chapter in the Cancer Concepts textbook will describe, in terms of mechanism of action, the most important classes of cytotoxic and targeted therapies as well as their most characteristic side effects and clinical uses. A table summarizing the classes of drugs and representative members of those classes is included at the end of the chapter. Rather than an encyclopedia, this will be a schematic diagram or roadmap to more detailed knowledge that you will acquire during your clinical training and subsequent experience.
Mary Linton Peters, Richard S. Pieters, James Liebmann, and Geoffrey Graeber
The “stage” of a cancer is a short-hand way of describing the extent of cancer in a patient. Stage is based on macroscopic involvement of tissues by cancer. Staging of cancer occurs prior to the beginning of treatment, or at the first definitive surgery. Clinical staging, which includes radiography and exam findings, takes place initially. Pathologic staging, which is obtained from surgical specimens, can be acquired during the course of surgical treatment. Patients then carry either the clinical stage or the pathologic stage for the duration of their illness. This chapter in the Cancer Concepts textbook will describe principles of cancer staging.
Epidemiology is the study of populations using defined research methods to confirm the patterns and causes of disease and applying this information to improve the health of the populations. This branch of science is the basis for understanding the spread of diseases in a defined area or group of people. Epidemiologic studies have been instrumental in improving outcomes by establishing preventive and therapeutic measures for the incidence, prevalence and mortality from cancers. The incidence of malignancy in a country or in our world defines the magnitude of the cancer problem. This chapter in the Cancer Concepts textbook will introduce the role of epidemiology in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Beverly N. Hay
While the majority of cancers are not inherited, there are a number of well described collections of cancers that occur within families. These cancer syndromes were initially identified based on observation of the family history and subsequently the molecular mechanisms have been elucidated. This chapter in the Cancer Concepts textbook is intended to allow the reader to recognize when a pattern of cancers occurs in an individual or their family, and to generate an investigation into potential cancer syndromes. With the rapidly expanding understanding of the molecular basis of cancers at the cellular and constitutional levels, appropriate preventive care may be offered and tailored treatment holds great promise.