Cancer Chemistry

Module code: CH4206

Studies from Cancer Research UK show that 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point during their lives. It’s highly likely that it has affected you or someone you know during your lifetime. While mortality rates are steadily decreasing, cancer still caused over a quarter of all deaths in the UK in 2016.

Chemistry has a pivotal role in developing our understanding and treatment of cancer. This module will introduce you to important concepts and theories within cancer chemistry. You’ll look at how cancer develops, how it starts and how to control it, viewing these from a chemical standpoint. Plus, you’ll hone your knowledge of treatment techniques, including DNA repair, radiation therapy and drug discovery, amongst others.

Topics covered

  • What cancer is, how it starts and how to control it
  • Apoptosis, angiogenesis, metastasis and how small molecules control these processes leading to new treatments for cancer
  • The development of cancer, including DNA damage by chemical carcinogenesis
  • Key chemical reactions involved in DNA repair, bifunctional cancer drugs, DNA alkylation and cross-linking
  • Radiation therapy of cancer
  • The main approaches to cancer drug discovery
  • Biological assays and high throughput screening
  • The contribution of computational methods to inhibitor design
  • Genomics and proteomics in drug discovery
  • Combinatorial syntheses and the identification of lead compounds
  • Key reactions of modern synthetic chemistry and how to apply these to rationale synthetic routes to some cancer drug candidates


  • 20 hours of lectures
  • 92 ½ hours of guided independent study


  • Continuous assessment (25%)
  • Exam, 2 hours (75%)