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From signal transduction to targeted therapy



Period: This course will not be taught in 2012-2013, but in 2013-2014. The description below is indicative for the course contents but may be updated by May/June 2013.


The purpose of signal transduction research is to understand at a molecular level how cells communicate with each other. With this knowledge we can understand all kinds of normal and pathological processes. For example, how an embryo develops from a fertilized egg, how a wound in our skin heals, but also how a tumor cell metastasizes to a distant organ.


Whereas in the past 20 years signal transduction research has mainly focused on understanding the fundamental principles and how perturbation in signal transduction processes underlie human diseases, the field in changing. Now more and more basic researchers and clinicians are teaming up to translate the basic findings into better medicines that have fewer side-effects.


This three week course will take you through the successive steps on how basic discoveries are translated into clinical applications.

The flow of the course is as follows:
In the first week you will get an introduction into the basic concepts of signal transduction with an interactive tutorial, and perform (in couples) hands-on experiments related to signal transduction processes that occur within and between cells (for example: invasion of tumor cells, differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells into functional osteoblasts, sprouting of blood vessel endothelial cells and DNA damage and stress signaling).

In the second week students present the results of the experiments and a scientific paper related to signal transduction research. In addition, the students get lectures on different aspects of translational research (drug discovery and development, molecular imaging, clinical trials). Visits will be made to a laboratory that participates in a clinical trial and to a Biotechnology company.

In the third week students will write a report in which a specific molecule/target is proposed for drug/clinical development. This will be done under guidance of a mentor that will meet with the students every day. At the end of the week each group will give a presentation on their proposal in a mini-symposium.


This course will particularly work on:

Research competences:

Integrate different biomedical disciplines, recording, organizing and analyzing data, choosing appropriate techniques.

Professional competences:

Commitment, motivation and drive, collaborating with peers, respecting the rules of the group.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, self study, practical, work group.

Assessment method

Written reports, oral presentation, student behaviour.

Recommended prior knowledge

*Alberts B. et al, Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th ed. 2002 New York: Garland. Chapter 15.

  • Weinberg RA, The Biology of Cancer, Garland Science, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Chapters 5 and 6.