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Genome (in)stability, cancer and ageing


Admission requirements

  • Successful completion of How To Write A Research Proposal is strongly recommended.

  • The course will be given at second year Master level. An introductory review on DNA repair and Mutagenesis describes basic starting-level knowledge of the field, and can be obtained from the coordinator.


Period: March 6 – 31, 2017

Content of the course:

The stability of our genome is under constant threat, while some instability is required to enable evolution. Key players in maintaining genome stability are protein complexes involved in DNA replication, DNA repair, DNA damage signalling, cell cycle control and apoptosis. Defects in these systems may lead to increased mutations, chromosomal instability and ultimately to cancer while these systems also play crucial roles in cellular senescence and organismal aging. In this course you will get insights in these processes but also training in how mechanistic, curiosity-driven, scientific research is conducted.


  • Week 1 and 2:
    acquire essential basic knowledge through introductory lectures given by experts in the field and through workgroups. You will study and discuss key reviews, read and present recent literature and get practicals.

  • Week 3 and 4:
    Small groups (2-3 persons) each focus on a specific defect in genetic stability or a particular syndrome. The students will attend lectures on various aspects of genome (in)stability and its consequences for fitness and disease by experts in these fields.
    There will furthermore be a microsymposium presented by scientists in the field.
    The students will meet and talk with patients with cancer predisposition resulting from an inherited genome instability syndrome. The groups will critically review, in a written report and oral presentation, a scientific manuscript and discuss missing and conflicting data.
    Then the groups will write a short proposal for an experiment and defend this proposal for their colleagues and for a panel of researchers.

This course will particularly work on:

Research competences:
Analytical and critical thinking, reading and writing, conducting scientific discussions, defining a research question, choosing appropriate techniques, writing a research proposal.
Professional competences:
Collaborating with peers, digesting of other people’s opinions, reflecting on personal actions, critical, analytical and independent thinking, working under pressure of deadlines, attacking and defending scientific models.

Course objectives

The student will acquire:

  • an overall understanding into the processes that safeguard genome stability and the consequences for fitness and disease.

  • deep knowledge of a specific subject related to the course topic

  • insights in the conduct of mechanistic, biomedical research

  • the ability to convey this knowledge and discrepancies in views to the other students

Mode of instruction

Plenary sessions, self study assignments, work groups; active participation in patient encounter, scientific discussions, microsymposium.

Assessment method

Review report of scientific manuscript, including presenting and defending it, research proposal, including presenting and defending it; student behaviour (participation in discussions, motivation, independency), practicals
Further information about the assessment can be found on the Blackboardsite of this course.