What Science Knows about Cancer

Course No. 1956
Professor David Sadava, Ph.D.
City of Hope Medical Center, Claremont Colleges
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Course No. 1956
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Course Overview

Few global challenges touch humanity with as much immediacy or ubiquity as cancer. Over the course of their lifetime, one in three people in North America, Europe, and Australia will develop a malignancy, and in the United States alone, the direct and indirect costs of cancer amount to billions of dollars a year. The sad truth is that almost every family in the Western world will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives.

The good news is that the landscape of cancer treatment and prevention is a vastly different place than it was even a decade ago. Thanks to a relatively new focus on molecular medicine, scientists have been on a highly encouraging trajectory of discovery. And with each passing day, researchers are gaining a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved, poising them on the brink of tremendous breakthroughs.

With the wealth of findings in this field, it is not surprising to read contradictory reports about causes and treatments. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, but if we arm ourselves with a scientific understanding of cancer, we'll not only have the tools to evaluate emerging news, we'll be in a much better position to prevent and grapple with the disease.

What Science Knows about Cancer reports from the front lines of the war on cancer with a clear and scientifically precise—yet thoroughly accessible—guide to how the disease develops, thrives, and can potentially be conquered. Taught by David Sadava, a laboratory researcher at the City of Hope Medical Center and an award-winning professor of biology at The Claremont Colleges, this fascinating 24-lecture course leaves no stone unturned in explaining the amazing ways cancer works to subvert the body's normal functioning, and how therapies can reverse these insidious processes.

Using a highly visual, step-by-step approach that takes you deep inside the cancer cell, Professor Sadava answers your questions about cancer and debunks myths with a level of specificity, scientific rigor, and candor that is rare to find.

With his expert guidance, you'll explore

  • why cancer rates have risen over the last century;
  • what agents and conditions cause cancer, from tobacco and radiation to diet and female reproductive status;
  • how DNA changes underlie the development of cancer;
  • the specific genes involved in making cells progress, divide, and spread;
  • the methods physicians employ when battling cancer; and
  • how behavior modification, drugs, vaccines, and compounds found in natural substances may help prevent cancer.
Cancer from a Scientist's Perspective

Professor Sadava presents cancer at the macro and microscopic levels as he lays bare the crisis it creates for both humanity and the human body. You'll venture inside cells to learn the conditions that lead them to become specialized or cancerous, and how the mechanisms that facilitate tumor growth are analogous to the gas pedal and brakes in your car.

Methodically organized and delivered, What Science Knows about Cancer uses a six-part framework to investigate the multistage model of cancer.

  • Part one begins with an overview of the challenge cancer presents for society and an examination of the history of cancer dating back over 3,000 years.
  • Part two delves into how scientists use epidemiology to identify environmental agents of cancer, and introduces how spontaneous changes in the expression and duplication of DNA can go awry.
  • Part three looks at tumors—from how they grow and metastasize to how they're diagnosed, staged, and graded by physicians.
  • Part four reveals recent discoveries about genes and inherited cancers, cancer-causing viruses, and the molecular biology of cancer.
  • Part five describes how the three major methods of treatment—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—have evolved over time and are frequently used in combination.
  • Part six offers a frank analysis of the state of cancer screening and prevention.

While you'll touch on specific forms of the disease, these lectures aren't designed to examine the prognosis or therapies of individual cancers. Rather, they empower you to understand how the disease operates and how, through advances in science, it might be stopped.

A Wealth of Eye-Opening Discoveries

This course will captivate you with descriptions of new targeted therapies coming from the realm of molecular medicine, such as drugs that attack DNA and other cell processes, and vaccines that harness a patient's own white blood cells, prompting the immune system to reject a tumor. And you'll be filled with a sense of optimism as you're introduced to treatments in the early stages of development, such as tumor-specific viruses that destroy tumor cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.

Here's a glimpse of some of the other surprising information you'll encounter:

  • About 10% of cancer is initiated by viruses, and a roughly similar percentage of cancer is inherited.
  • Things many people assume causes cancer—such as pollutants and food additives—may not be as significant as natural substances in foods and normal reproductive processes.
  • Public policies such as home radon testing may be based on false assumptions about the risks for cancer.
  • Tumors can recruit their own blood supply through the process of angiogenesis.
  • Some cancer occurs spontaneously, simply because of imperfections in our chemistry.
Prevention as the Best Medicine

In addition to highlighting carcinogens to avoid, What Science Knows about Cancer outlines the natural agents that leading researchers—Professor Sadava included—are investigating for their anti-cancer properties.

You'll consider thought-provoking information on the benefits and efficacy of various types of cancer screening, including genetic testing for the "breast cancer gene" (BRCA1), as well as breast self-exams, cervical screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms, and PSA screenings for prostate cancer. Along the way, you'll consider ethical and legal questions regarding the costs associated with these tests, their rates of false positives, what should be done with the information, and whether their routine use has a significant impact on rates of survival.

As a lab researcher at the forefront of this fight who works at the City of Hope Medical Center—and who also taught one of the first comprehensive courses on cancer to undergraduates—Professor Sadava is uniquely qualified to offer a straightforward explanation steeped in the latest science. Although he is presenting high-level findings, he never overwhelms with a barrage of data. Rather, he offers a nuanced interpretation that places research within its broader context—as only a scientist of his caliber is capable of doing.

An abundance of edifying charts, slides, and animations provide a rich visual reference for the information presented, while in-depth accounts of patient histories, clinical trials, and epidemiologic studies enrich your experience and aid comprehension.

Cancer isn't necessarily something any of us likes to think about, but knowledge truly is power. Forever change the way you view and cope with this all-too-common challenge with What Science Knows about Cancer.

Disclaimer:
These lectures are not designed for use as medical references to diagnose, treat, or prevent medical illnesses or trauma. Neither The Great Courses nor Professor Sadava is responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a medical condition or illness, consult a qualified physician.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Cancer Is an Ongoing Challenge
    Kick off the course with an overview of what you’ll learn and the history of cancer. Discover what has transpired in the war on cancer, from the earliest theories and treatments to medicine’s relatively recent transition from a focus on dividing cells to targeted therapy based on molecular biology. x
  • 2
    Cancer Is a Major Burden to Society
    As you investigate why cancer is a growing problem in the United States and across the globe, explore the burden cancer places on society as a whole—both to people and the economy—and look at some of the most common forms of the disease. See why, surprisingly, cancer doesn’t rank on the Global Burden of Disease Study. x
  • 3
    Discovering Causes of Cancer in Populations
    What do population studies tell us about the causes of cancer? Define the science of epidemiology and learn how it can be used to study cancer in both populations and individuals. Differentiate between case-control and cohort studies, and the categories of risk factors for cancer. x
  • 4
    Some Causes of Cancer in Populations
    Continue exploring epidemiology by delving into environmental causes of cancer that have emerged from studies, including tobacco, diet, a woman’s reproductive status, medications, pesticides, radiation, and even your personality. How does giving birth later in life make you more vulnerable to breast cancer? Is the average person’s exposure to pesticides really dangerous? Find out here. x
  • 5
    DNA Is the Key to Understanding Cancer
    Take the first steps in understanding the multistage model of cancer by learning how various agents initiate cancer at the genetic level. Explore the fundamentals of DNA as genetic material, the process by which DNA is expressed and duplicated, and the ways this process of duplication can go awry, causing cell mutations to accumulate. x
  • 6
    How Does DNA Change to Initiate Cancer?
    Two types of carcinogens mutate DNA: chemicals and radiation. Build on what you’ve learned about DNA by looking specifically at how these carcinogens produce cancer at the cellular level. Then, examine carcinogens that don’t damage DNA and how epigenetic changes in DNA can result in cancer. x
  • 7
    How Do We Know If Something Causes Cancer?
    Does hair dye cause cancer? What about saccharin? Familiarize yourself with the types of experiments scientists conduct to determine if something causes cancer, and consider whether a range of natural and manmade substances with carcinogenic properties have the potential to cause cancer in humans. Conclude this lecture by looking closely at the concept of risk analysis. x
  • 8
    How Do Normal Cells Function?
    Focus on cells as the basic structures of living things through an exploration of their internal composition, particularly the nucleus where the genome is retained. See how this discovery was proven in the cloning of Dolly the sheep and consider how this is relevant to cancer treatment. x
  • 9
    What Is Different about Cancer Cells?
    How do tumors start? Find out how cells divide without normal controls in place and the nine unusual properties shared by many cancerous cells—including the ability to recruit a blood supply. Then learn about the process of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, and the molecules being developed to block telomerase, a protein that lets cancer cells escape dying. x
  • 10
    How Do Tumors Grow?
    What is the difference between benign and malignant tumors? What signs of cancer do people typically experience? Turn to tumor development and growth with a discussion of the methods doctors use to diagnose, stage, and grade tumors—all of which inform how aggressive treatment should be—and an introduction to the distressing processes of metastasis and angiogenesis. x
  • 11
    How Tumors Spread and Thrive
    The body does everything it can to reject a tumor, but sometimes the immune system is not only too overburdened to succeed, it’s unable to even recognize that tumors exist. Find out why tumors can go undetected as you continue your investigation of metastasis and angiogenesis, and how these phenomena contribute to the growth and spread of tumors. x
  • 12
    What Are Tumor Viruses?
    Most of us will be infected with—and recover from—Epstein-Barr virus at some point in our lives. In some people, this infection contributes to the development of cancer. Understand what viruses are, how tumor viruses can be identified, and the way viruses such as Epstein-Barr, hepatitis B, and papilloma cause cancer if other conditions are present. x
  • 13
    How Do Tumor Viruses Cause Cancer?
    Learn about molecular biology and how gene expression is controlled before turning to an investigation of the way tumor viruses use these gene control mechanisms to initiate cell division, and, ultimately, cancer. Wrap up by looking at how cancer develops in 90% of cases—from normal cells that aren't infected by viruses. x
  • 14
    How Do Cancer-Causing Genes Work?
    In almost all cancer, genes that stimulate cell division called oncogenes are mutated. But can one such mutation cause cancer on its own? Examine an experiment that answers this question, then look closely at proto-oncogenes and oncogenes to discover how they function and what they do in the cell to turn on cancers, including neuroblastoma tumors in children. x
  • 15
    Can Cancer Be Inherited?
    Why do cancers sometimes run in families? Explore the “two-hit” hypothesis for how cancers are inherited along with the criteria for defining cancer as hereditary with a discussion of several forms—including retinoblastoma, colon cancer, and breast cancer—that are known to be passed on this way. Explore inherited susceptibilities to cancer that make some people more prone to developing this disease. x
  • 16
    How Do Normal Genes Suppress Tumors?
    Now that you understand oncogenes, focus on tumor suppressor genes for a more complete view of cancer. Start by learning how the BRCA1 gene mutation in inherited breast cancer was discovered—and its implications—before turning to strategies for identifying and isolating suppressor genes to be used in therapy. Explore the genes’ functions, from repairing DNA damage to acting as brakes in the cell division cycle. x
  • 17
    How Do Genetic Changes Result in Cancer?
    All tumors are not created equal. Trace how cancer develops as a series of molecular changes, then learn how the worldwide Cancer Genome Project is working toward individualized therapies. Conclude by looking at genetic testing and considering its ethical and legal ramifications. x
  • 18
    Treating Cancer with Surgery
    From research to clinical trials to approval, cancer therapies face a long road before they become viable treatment options. As you turn to the science behind surgical cancer therapy, explore this developmental process. Using breast cancer as an example, learn the scientific principles of surgical therapy and how it has evolved. Weigh the pros and cons of using surgery to diagnose cancer, remove localized tumors, and prevent metastasis. x
  • 19
    Treating Cancer with Radiation
    Continue your investigation of ways to treat cancer by learning how radiation treatments, including proton therapy, brachytherapy, and radiosurgery, are often used to kill cancer cells. Next, explore the use of stem cell transplantation to restore the bone marrow of patients who’ve experienced high doses of radiation or chemotherapy. x
  • 20
    Treating Cancer with Drugs
    Turn to the last of the three methods of treatment with this lecture that traces the origins of chemotherapy to mustard gas attacks in World War II. Learn about the path taken by a drug on its way to a tumor, the combinations of chemotherapy used by oncologists, and how drugs are often derived from plants and other natural sources. x
  • 21
    How Do Drugs Attack Cancer?
    Some cancer drugs go to work on DNA while others target processes inside the cell. Get an introduction to both categories and learn the science behind how widely used drugs such as methotrexate, tamoxifen, and cisplatin operate. Consider the side effects patients commonly experience when undergoing chemotherapy and the reasons cells become resistant to treatment. Then, using kidney cancer as an example, look at how science has led to new treatments with the potential to target specific tumors. x
  • 22
    Frontiers of Cancer Treatment
    Explore avenues of treatment at the frontiers of science, starting with how a patient’s own immune system can be harnessed in cancer therapy. Take an in-depth look at antibodies and gene therapy as options for treatment and consider the amazing potential of viruses that target tumors only and leave normal cells undamaged. x
  • 23
    Can Screening for Cancer Be Useful?
    Why are monthly breast self-examinations no longer recommended in some countries? Do PSA screenings for prostate cancer have any impact on survival rates for men with the disease? Examine the science of screening and the success rates of current screening methods for cancers of the breast, cervix, colon, and prostate, and consider whether getting screened is worthwhile given the risks and costs associated with each. x
  • 24
    Can Cancer Be Prevented?
    Conclude the course with a discussion of prevention, from carcinogens to avoid to substances that studies indicate could offer chemoprevention in a wide variety of cancers. Learn why identifying carcinogens and preventive agents is so challenging for researchers, and look toward the promising future of treatment and prevention. x

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Your professor

David Sadava

About Your Professor

David Sadava, Ph.D.
City of Hope Medical Center, Claremont Colleges
Dr. David Sadava is Adjunct Professor of Cancer Cell Biology at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, CA, and the Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at The Claremont Colleges. Professor Sadava graduated from Carleton University as the science medalist with a B.S. with first-class honors in biology and chemistry. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he earned a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of...
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Reviews

What Science Knows about Cancer is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 40.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Clear and well-organized lectures by an engaged and engaging teacher. Very well worth the time and money required to absorb the topic.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The "C" word When I was younger, I avoided everything having to do with cancer. Probably like many of us do. Then my mother got a very aggressive cancer that she proceeded to fight for fourteen years. It was during that time that this course was published and I saw it, in the context of being a secondary caregiver and support person. If you have ever had cancer or had a relative with cancer, people stop talking to them, or to you. They don't mention cancer or your loved one. It can be a very trying time as the patient and family try to work through the cancer and keep on living life. It was great to see TGC come out with a whole course on cancer. It's been a couple of years since I watched this, and it's one that I will return to watch. I found this course very refreshing in its approach - clinical and fact based and a discussion about what cancer is, answering common questions along the way. If you are looking for a course to make you feel less stress about cancer, then this course is not it. It very much lives up to the "science" aspect of its title. If you do feel comfort in learning about the enemy and comforting in facts, then this course is for you. I found the professor's delivery and approach to the subject good and appropriate to the content. As an aside, since I do not see a note about what other courses I would recommend, I would recommend the course "How to Make Stress Work for You" as a companion course. It contains a lot of insomnia and stress reducing remedies that would benefit the cancer patient and his/her family alike.
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Course I purchased this as I have recently been diagnosed with cancer. This course gave me a solid understanding of current knowledge of the causes and treatments for cancer. It covers cancer overall, which is a very broad subject so don't expect advice on a specific cancer. I recommend it.
Date published: 2017-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awsome Course This course is beautifully put together. It covers so much and the detail is just enough so anyone can grasp it. As a lay person who has a vast knowledge on this topic, I must say I learned a lot. Well worth the price, good length and topics covered. This course leaves you feeling you have learned the very latest on cancer and if need be, could make good decisions concerning your own health.
Date published: 2016-11-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and thought provoking This course is very informative on the history of cancer research and treatments up to present day state. Prof. Savada delivers great content and is obviously well informed, but his presentation is at times dull and does not engage the viewer/listener as expected. Still, the content is rich with many interesting case studies that helped advance the understanding about cancer, as well as acknowledging that we are still far from completely knowing all the intricacies of the disease.
Date published: 2016-05-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from what science still does not know about cancer I bought the dvd version of this course because I like many others are scared to death of cancer and wanted to know more. The professor is very knowledgeable. I have read other reviews in which one other reviewer stated that if you are looking for a miracle cure, this course is it. I must DISAGREE. There is no miracle cure to be found here. In fact, what I have learned is that we have so much more to learn and now I understand why it may not be possible to eradicate cancer at all in the near future. This course is excellent for high school students and college students interested in this subject. It is highly technical so much so it goes over my head at times. Now, since I love when reviewers tell me whether to get the video or audio, I am happy to offer my opinion that getting the audio course is sufficient. One of the uncomfortable aspects of the video is that the professor is constantly waving his hands and that can be distracting to be polite.
Date published: 2015-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chock Full of Info This science course has held me riveted thru each lecture. The vast knowledge Dr Sadava has collected thru research is immense. He breaks facts down with many graphical videos and charts showing study statistics and various cancers and timelines. I love how he gets into the material and talks to you as if you are present in the room. I have many family members who have passed from cancer and only one who was diagnosed who has survived. I knew quite a bit about procedures and cancer names. I had also heard over the years of protein kinase and other proteins and oncogenes he mentions but not to the degree of detail. He walks you thru the various parts of the dna structure and talks about the genes that turn on or off certain cells. Discusses breakdown and mutations of genes as well as hereditary cancers and how some can be determined thru dna testing. He also discusses various studies and drugs that are used and what there roles are in a particular study. i have sat thru several hours of lectures because each lecture flows into the next and keeps you engaged. Would purchase courses from Dr Sadava again. Wonderful lecturer as well as having vast knowledge. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2015-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Underlying Science of A Dreaded disease This course explains what is known of the Science of Cancer. Since Science itself is the process of empirically gaining an understanding of how natural phenomena work, by definition the knowledge of Science is constantly evolving (and growing). Dr. Sadava does not claim to have all the answers, but does present what has been learned through the scientific method up to the time this course was produced (2013). The course is not meant to present psychological strategies for patients coping with cancer, nor does it present a one size fits all cure. What he does present is the knowledge of what cancer is, where it comes from, what some of the treatment options are, some lifestyle options for helping to reduce the odds of getting cancer, and what are the frontiers of cancer biology research. Actually, while TTC places this course in the "Better Living" category, it probably fits better as a "Science" course. Dr. Sadava starts with first principles of biology. Cancer cells do not undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death). Therefore they continue to divide and grow indefinitely and have other nasty characteristics. Cancer cells arise due to genetic mutations which occur during normal cell division, which happens throughout our lives in much of our tissue (e.g. lungs, digestive tract, skin, glial cells in brain, bone marrow, etc). These mutations can occur at random or be triggered by a carcinogen (such as tobacco smoke, radiation, etc). Beyond that it gets much more complicated as cancer cells have a range of other properties which enable them to overwhelm our systems. Note: the genetic nature of cancer does not necessarily mean it is an inherited disease. Certainly specific inherited genes can increase the likelihood of getting cancer, but as in the course of our existence cell division is occurring constantly, there are constant opportunities for these mutations to occur. As we age, the genetic replication that occurs in cell division gets less precise, which is why cancer is more prevalent among the elderly. The research results and data presented are much more extensive than this short summary, which is why the course is valuable. Dr. Sadava does an excellent job of showing the data from the research to support the conclusions in most incidences. He covers many research studies, so short of extending the course to double its length and twice its depth he cannot present all of the data. But the data and citations he does present give one confidence that there is science behind all of his conclusions. He is also very good about showing null or inconclusive results. For example, though diet is suspected to be the second leading cause of cancer (after smoking) and cancer has been shown to be more likely with obesity, Dr. Sadava does show that specific dietary studies have been inconclusive. I truly appreciate his showing the data to support his conclusions given the bold pronouncements often made about health and treatments (particularly with respect to cancer) with little to no data and based largely on "pseudoscience". It is also refreshing to hear him honestly show the data on the effectiveness of cancer screens; some tests like Pap smears have been very effective while others, like PSA test have been less so. While Dr. Sadava does talk about pharmaceutical treatments he does so objectively without the same kind of "cure all" hype that often is inferred by Big Pharma. This helps a patient or potential patient become more informed in working with their doctor about treatment. Dr. Sadava gives a well organized presentation. His presentations skills are OK but not among the best of TTC instructors. His pace varies, sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. He uses good body language to emphasize points but sometimes his hand waving is excessive and distracting. The production quality is excellent with very good photographs and illustrations showing the differences between normal cells and tissues and cancer cells/tissues. The graphs of data are much appreciated. Despite a long history of Cancer research , including a relatively unproductive "War on Cancer" program in the 1970's, recently cancer research productivity has increased with the significant cost lowering of DNA sequencing. This has helped increase the understanding of the fundamental mutations that cause various forms of cancer, and hopefully will ultimately increase the range and effectiveness of treatment. Much progress has occurred even since 2013. Dr. Sadava talks about how DNA testing can lead to a future of Personalized Medicine (treatments geared toward the genetic makeup of the individual) an area where progress is being made since the date of this course. One such area is understanding the efficacy of pharmaceuticals for each individual based on their genotype. Gene therapy and immunotherapy are other areas where in the future this progress in genomics may help. One recent example is the use of gene therapy to genetically program one's own T-calls to attack cancerous B-calls in a certain type of leukemia. The course guidebook had one sentence about the use of nanotechnology as a treatment, but disappointingly Dr. Sadava did not cover this in his lectures. This is another promising area where nanoparticles can be used to invade and destroy certain types of cancer cells. See the NIH website for examples of the experiments and trials being done in this area. To the student who wishes to get a basic understanding of the science underlying cancer, I strongly recommend this course as a starting point. If you are looking for a miracle cure or complete knowledge of cancer and how to treat it, this course (nor any other) will provide it. The fact that cancer is induced by random mutations and/or incorrect expression of our DNA in different ways in different types of cells in our bodies and involves unregulated growth of what are really our own cells, makes this an especially difficult disease to understand and treat. The knowledge I gained from this course makes me feel better informed to make my own life choices which may reduce my odds of getting cancer and to be better able to make informed decisions about screening and/or treatment (should I ever need to undergo it).
Date published: 2015-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shows where we're at I've always had questions about cancer, and I've tried to answer them by searching through the millions of websites on the Internet. However, I've always ended up forgetting those answers. Watching this course was the first time I've been seriously absorbed in learning more about cancer. David Sadava’s course is not something I will ever forget. After watching his course about genetics, I could not resist going through this one as well. I was interested in learning about cancer because my grandfather and a distant relative had suffered due to different cancers. And I was not disappointed: the course starts by talking about the history, challenges, and causes, and then goes inside the body to show how tumors develop. The lecturer supports his discussions with graphs and other data, and ends the course discussing possible treatments, screening and prevention, and the future of cancer research. Everything is organized exceptionally well. Each lecture begins with a story, and the lecturer then takes a few seconds to outline what will be taught in the lecture. This was extremely helpful as I took notes while watching. The one flaw I would point out is that most statistics provided were American statistics. Since Great Courses like this one are bought by people from all over the world, I was expecting more international statistics. However, overall, I loved the course for the knowledge it gave to me. I would definitely recommend this course. I now have a better idea about what cancer is, why it occurs, and where, as a human race, we’re at solving it.
Date published: 2014-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What Science knows About Cancer This course was well worth the time. Every lecture was packed with information - sometimes even a little bit too much. I felt the course so informative that I purchased an additional copy of it and mailed it to a friend in Kansas City who works for the V.A.
Date published: 2014-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great information This course is a bit hard to digest in its entirety, especially for a novice, because of the terminology and what constitutes molecular interactions, but it is presented very well by Prof. Sadava with great illustrations (diagrams, charts, animations). Nevertheless, if one can "hang in there," the information is absolutely eye-opening and, best of all, quite up-to-date. It seems there is still a long way to go to making all this insight help with treating cancers, but it does show that there has been enormous progress in the last few years with much more likely in the near future.
Date published: 2014-12-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from I bought this course because of my interest in and pursuit of an education in physiology. I watched several of the lectures before I gave up on it. I will be exchanging this course for one of more interest to me. The professor, while obviously knowledgeable, tended to be wordy and difficult to follow. Even though I am interested in cancer and what we know about it, this course did not hold my interest. I do want to say that I have enjoyed lectures from other professors very much and I was surprised at my disappointment in this course.
Date published: 2014-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Prof. Sadava knows the material well, and has the ability to present complicated concepts with clarity. I highly recommend this course. I bought the CD format, because I am more likely to listen when I'm commuting. I can tell I'm missing important information that's presented visually, but will try to supplement with books listed in the bibliography.
Date published: 2014-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Course I am a lawyer, and a cancer survivor, but I never understood what cancer was, or how the medical approaches to it work, prior to watching this course. So much has been learned since I was in college. and it is wonderful to have it clearly and concisely presented. I am just finishing my second viewing of it, watchiing one lecture per day so that the amazing amount of information packed into each one has a chance to sink in. The material is covered in a thorough way, and the graphics are a major help in illustrating what the Professor is saying. The presentation is entertaining, instructive, and very clear. I am in absolute awe of the Professor's ability to take a complex subject and make it comprehensible. I enjoy many of the Great Courses, but this one is easily the best so far.
Date published: 2014-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Takes what could be very complicated and makes it easily digestible. Great organization of material. Made it into a fascinating series of lectures with excellent presentation skills. In fact I liked him so much I got his other course
Date published: 2013-12-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Incomplete and Misleading Professor Sadava makes a convincing case for the cancer industry party line but barely mentions the turmoil, descent and conflicts of interest that taint the field. The cancer research, detection and treatment industry has been over-promising, over-diagnosing, over-treating and under-delivering good results for decades. The party line in this course is the same as it has been for decades – this time is different we are so close to a cure we just need a little more… Scandals abound in cancer research, detection and treatment and are regularly reported in the print media. But the coverage does not do justice to the battles occurring behind the scenes in professional medical and biochemistry journals. Just enough of the scandals are presented here to give you the impression they are being adequately covered. Many doctors and researchers have concluded (some of them long ago) that there is a fundamental error in the reductionist approach but you will not find their arguments here. For example when Professor Sadava mentions the beta-carotene vs. lung cancer debacle but he does not give the full story as the complete story does not fit in with the industry’s reductionist approach. There is a rising chorus of researchers and doctors that want to present the public with accurate information. However they are shouted down by well-heeled commercial interests that can and do punish doctors and researchers who do not follow the party line. So this information remains buried in the literature unless one knows where to find it, read it and understand it. There are doctors and researchers presenting this information especially the nutrition facts. Professor Sadava is not in their ranks. For example Professor Sadava gives the impression there is no actionable dietary and nutrition information available. Actually there are over 3,000 English language Clinical Nutrition Studies published every year. Many of them are on cancer and are available to the general public but you need to know how to find them and read them (not to mention the time). Good clinical nutrition facts are available but are drowned out by the accompanying nonsense promoted everywhere. In this regard the Nurses Study and EPIC study cited by Professor Sadava are considered flawed and of limited value by many experts in cancer and nutrition research. And he leaves out the massive China Study although he does attack it without actually mentioning it. (For example, there is more to the fat vs. cancer country chart than Professor Sadava lets on.) Professor Sadava never states anything false that I heard rather he just presents half the science. For example carrots may contain trace amounts of aniline and aniline may be worse for you than the nitrosamines that are found in bacon. But the implication that bacon is healthier than carrots is the type of nonsense you see on the nightly news. Hint: there is more to carrots than aniline. Or to state the fact that the fruit peels contain toxins harmful to insects is true. The implication that they are harmful to humans would be true if it were not for the studies that show their toxicity is preferential to cancer cells. These and numerous other instances are examples of the cancer industries obsession with reductionist “silver bullet” solutions. The formula is simple concentrate on one fact to the exclusion of others. But my favorite is Professor Sadava’s attack on vegetables because (paraphrasing) “what you grow in your back yard will be different than what you grow in your front yard.” That is true but it is also true if you do not over load them with pesticides both are good for you. In a number of instances Professor Sadava lets on that he knows of the controversy and opposing views but refrains from details. And his recommended reading also does not tell the story. (A better recommended reading list would have earned a second star.) A better place to start is Dr. Goodman’s “The Human Body: How We Fail, How We Heal". Dr. Goodman’s unconventional definition of cancer is trending in the literature and will likely be adopted in the future. The following comment from James D. Watson, winner of the Nobel Prize for his co-discovery of the structure of DNA "The American public is being sold a nasty bill of goods... about cancer cures.” Those words spoken in congressional testimony in 1975 still ring true today. A few procedures have been shown to be life preserving but many have had the Hippocratic Oath repealed with little positive objective results to show for it. For example some insurance companies are refusing to pay for the expensive Prostate Proton Therapy presented as the new breakthrough because it has the same results as the old therapy and still leaves many grown men in diapers. Studies have shown that most men with prostate cancer will die of other causes first. That is the reason for the controversy mentioned briefly in the course.
Date published: 2013-11-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from What science knows about Cancer I did not buy this course,however I would like oppenions on the prise. Is this priced for students, accademia or for lay people who would like to become mmore informed?
Date published: 2013-10-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fine course, audio CD version not best David Sadava delivers the latest insights into how cancer develops, from the genetic to the cellular, to organ/organism level. An engaging speaker, he gives plenty of technical details without losing his less scientific listeners. I got the CD version of this course, and it held up well. For the first dozen lectures, I didn't need pictures or diagrams to understand or appreciate what Professor Savada was saying. In the second half, it seemed that pictures of DNA, proteins, membranes, and cells were telling most of the story. Experimental results were being shown on charts and graphs unavailable to the audio CD listener. This is a top quality course, by any measure. For example, I now know the P-53 gene is the "Swiss army knife" of tumor suppression genes. It can fix DNA errors or, failing that, trigger programmed cell death. You won't need video to appreciate most of these scientific revelations.
Date published: 2013-10-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from FAST MOVING, COMPREHENSIVE, INFORMATIVE This review refers to the DVD's. I've had two battles with this disease, and I never think of them as cured, but rather as holding the problem in remission. The first conflict was approached through surgery. It involved three operations over two years with a gifted surgeon who was willing to attempt a radical, innovative approach that thus far has been successful. The second episode (prostate cancer) was treated through radiation. The side effects are a difficult challenge that will linger on for the rest of my life. As of the time I write this review, there has been no evidence of the disease's return measured by annual PSA test results. My father died of liver cancer at 70, and one of my sisters, a heavy two plus pack a day smoker, died of lung cancer at 83. So, I feel an intimate contact with this disease. I found this series interesting, helpful, and, yes, encouraging by extending one's knowledge of the cancer challenge. Dr Sadava covers a massive amount of ground. He briefly touches many aspects of how cancer operates, what it is, what the latest research is pointing towards, and the various medical approaches to it. He also explains something of the statistical techniques and limitations for measuring these approaches. There are many easy to understand graphs and charts employed along with comprehensible graphics. He draws on individual experiences to illustrate many of the subjects he covers. I liked his approach to the mysteries of what role diet plays in this disease. It has always bothered me that some of the couples I have known have both died in their late fifties or early sixties of the same type of cancer within a short time of each other. His discussion of the side effects of the drugs employed in chemotherapy was careful and nuanced. My own experience in the discussions of these decisions has led me to regard the advice of the medical professionals with great care. It seems to me that the oncology specialists are dealing daily in most cases with alleviating the pain and suffering of impending, certain death. To keep their spirits up, they must of necessity be optimistic about the pharmacological solutions they propose. I've never discussed this issue with any of them, of course, but I have with friends and family working through this difficult, sad decision. It is critical those with the patient not to become bitter or frustrated with the oncologist over the sometimes difficult results stemming from the side effects of chemotherapy or its failure to produce the predicted results. In that regard, and in many other areas, I found this limited series to be helpful, and would recommend it to anyone involved with this disease or those who wish to learn more about it.
Date published: 2013-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Killer course! Video download review. ©2013. Guidebook 174 pages. I want to say right off that these lectures make course a Great Course. It was educational, timely, and well-organized. It included fantastic graphics and Professor Sandoval did a great job presenting seemingly difficult material in a way that ordinary folks could understand with ease. Cancer is a pretty scary thing, and what makes it worse is that the incidence of cancer seems so high, especially now with longer life spans and exposure to environmental contaminants. This course is a fountain of information and you really get a sense, based on Kaplan-Meier curves explained in the course, that science and technology are making progress. I didn’t expect it, but it’s actually a very positive set of lectures. The Guidebook is very well-written and summarizes the content perfectly, so you should read before and/or after to really digest the content; it’s even worth viewing multiple times. I’d say this is a must-have course. Almost every day you read the paper or hear various news reports claiming coffee or something else causes cancer; then the next week coffee protects against cancer, and so on. I’d say that this course is critical for the public’s general awareness. I really enjoyed Professor Sadava’s presentation. It felt entirely unscripted; he makes really good eye contact with the camera; he starts off each lecture with a story/anecdote; and he uses a lot of metaphors to get his point across.
Date published: 2013-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More, please I am a retired geology professor trying desperately to get up to speed in the field of cancer biology In time to be of some value as a volunteer with several cancer research programs. I was stimulated to do so by the death of my wife, from ovarian cancer. Part of my effort to alleviate my profound ignorance about biology has been study of Teaching Company courses. The general biology course is very good., but I even more strongly recommend the two courses by David Sadava, of which this is one. I have “taken” many Teaching Company courses over the years – mainly history courses. I rate Dr. Sadava as nearly a dead-heat for best Teaching Company instructor: with Bob Brier, whose Egyptian history course is superlative. My only complaint is that Dr. Sadava’s courses are only 24 lectures long – I could have gone on enjoying and profiting from both courses for at least twice that long. Thank you, Dr. Sadava.
Date published: 2013-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! Information dense, masterfully presented, great visual material. Easily one of the very best of over a 100 courses I listened to. I admired Dr. Sadava's comprehensive approach to the topic from different perspectives (with an emphasis on molecular biology) and his artistic vibe in demonstrating how growth hormone receptor works. A perfect course for anyone, who is interested in the topic.
Date published: 2013-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Some things you control. Some things you don't. When I first saw Dr. Sadava's WHAT SCIENCE KNOWS ABOUT CANCER, I was filled with wonder at how far scientists had progressed in their understanding of this scourge. I guess that in coming decades we may reach a stage, as we did with HIV / AIDS, where many forms of cancer can be "managed" if not cured, so that the cancer-stricken can live much longer lives, albeit with pharmacological support. At this level, this course is great. But if I remember back to my mother's lingering death after suddenly discovering that she had stage 4 breast cancer, I wonder what difference Sadava's course would have made to us had we had access to it. Very little, I'm afraid. If you are puzzled by the list of additives on a loaf of bread, this course will hardly help you understand the pharmacological options suggested by doctors, any more than watching TTC's excellent THE WORLD'S GREATEST STRUCTURES would help you find errors in a detailed building plan. The fact is, I numbly followed expert advice while focusing on key issues like quality of life. Given the patient's age and the expected side-effects, is chemo or surgery worth it? Beyond these immediate issues, and all the paperwork should things go wrong, cancer is primarily a psychological situation that most doctors tiptoe around. With my mother, though she was 80, I faced an explosion of denial, bewilderment and rage. How could this happen? How could she go from health to stage 4 cancer in so little time? The Kubler-Ross sequence #denial → anger → bargaining → depression → acceptance# recurred with bewildering speed, not necessarily in that order. These dramatic ups and downs gradually subsided thanks to exhaustion and a steady stream of medication designed to soothe — and make her fit into the hospital's institutional limitations. We held hands and discussed old childhood pictures, novels, films she had loved, and her spiritual beliefs. We were heavily into storytelling as a way to make sense of the experience. Hospitals can be deeply alienating environments, with noisy neighbours and indifferent attendants one day, and deeply caring personnel at other times. And then the window closed. The pharmacological cocoon tightened as her suffering got out of control. She was conscious for shorter and shorter spells, and even then recognized few of us. Her mind disappeared well before her body failed. ______________ Of course, cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence. But even remission can be short-lived as Steve Jobs and Roger Ebert sadly discovered. My point is that TTC's courses on literature, history and religion are at least as relevant to your experience of cancer, the part you can control, as Dr Sadava's course, excellent though it is. I am not saying that these cultural perspectives are closer to the truth than what science has to offer, far from it. You need courses like Dr Sadava's to discuss cancer intelligently with your specialist. I merely stress that the "life affirming" process cancer provokes includes much more than science. The course guidebook is excellent. Thank you Dr Sadava. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2013-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knowledge You Need I doubt there are even ten people in America who have not been touched in some way by this scourge. Happily, in my case it is not in the immediate family, but only tangentially. Just like a course on some other unhappy subjects ( Hitler, for example ) this one will open your eyes and inspire you to take up the fight. To be great, a course doesn't have to make you smile or laugh. This IS one of the Great Courses. Arm yourself with knowledge. We all need it.
Date published: 2013-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course Deserves a Ten Star!!! As previous reviewers have indicated, this course is FANTASTIC!! I have purchased over 70 courses and marvel at the scientific knowledge and thought provoking insights obtained, in addition to the brilliant professors : This course goes beyond that! Dr. Sadava is extremely passionate about the field of cancer research and his place in finding answers to the human misery it causes. Others have described at length the overwhelming diversity of knowledge presented and Professor's excellence in sharing it with us. As someone who is both an environmental scientist and cancer patient, the course was both chilling and electrifying. Listening to a cutting edge researcher like Professor Sadava, generates the greatest respect for medical warriors like him, who dedicate their lives to such a greater good. Thank You Dr. Sadava!!!! I believe a great followup course should be from an Environmental Toxicologist such as Dr. Devra Davis.
Date published: 2013-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from excellent content but tends to go too fast The professor knows his stuff. I learned a great deal from the course and now have much respect for the complexity and, yes, "beauty" of the biology of the general entity called cancer. I am a cancer survivor myself and thank Prof. Sadava for his help to me by this course. Often, however, when he gets into complex material, he seems to forget that some in his audience are not scientists and proceeds at lightning speed. He also tends to drop his voice at the end of a sentence or topic; as well, when he refers to complex terms or concepts which he has previously covered, he repeats them very rapidly, almost dismissively, as if his whole audience recognized them and thoroughly understood them.
Date published: 2013-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from MOST EXCELLENT, INDEED! In this fascinating course Dr. David Sadava gives us the latest updated understandings of the War on Cancer. Professor Sadava is an excellent and knowledgeable lecturer who has spent his career researching and teaching about this dreaded disease. The course is divided into six parts each dealing with a specific topic. PART I – CHALLENGE OF CANCER 1 in 3 people will get malignant cancer and 1 in 4 will die from it which is why cancer is the second-leading cause of death (heart disease is number one). PART II – CAUSES OF CANCER Population observations and the science of epidemiology in looking for causes are explained. Cancer is mostly a disease of changes in DNA. The major things that cause cancer are tobacco and diet as well as some reproductive factors and he makes the point that many of the things that cause cancer are natural rather than artificial. PART III – CANCER AS A DISEASE The multiple changes a cell goes through in order to change from a normal cell to a cancer cell are discussed. It’s the accumulation of damage in multiple steps over many years which causes the problem. Sadava explains how the new science of stem cells relates to cancer, the fact there is great heterogeneity in tumor cells and all cancers cells are not alike, science now knows much more about the steps of metastasis (how cancer spreads), and angiogenesis (how a tumor recruits its blood supply). PART IV – GENES AND VIRUSES Peering deeply inside cells and looking into genes, viruses, and molecular biology led to the discovery that 10% of cancers are caused by tumor viruses which led to the discovery of oncogenes and proto-oncogenes in cells. Additionally it was found 10% of cancers are inherited which led to the discovery of suppressor genes. It was then found you can do a molecular biography of cancer and look at all the specific changes in genes as a cancer develops which led to the ability to use targeted therapy. PART V – TREATMENT The study of how cancer spreads led to changes in surgery. Surgery gives a patient the best chance to be cured. New forms of radiation therapy cause less damage to good cells and if surgery is not possible, radiation therapy gives a patient the next best chance to survive. Chemotherapy has evolved from natural products to isolated molecules to targeted therapy. If the cancer has spread and chemotherapy is necessary, the patient cannot be cured but may still achieve many years of quality life. PART VI – SCREENING AND PREVENTION Screening is done on a population basis and the use of cancer screening depends on knowledge and once we know the cause, it leads to prevention. Dr. Sadava concludes this highly informational course by giving his best estimates of what the future holds in cancer research and treatment. In the struggle to find the causes of cancer, he thinks epidemiology will identify nutritional causes and preventative agents. Better screening methods for carcinogenic agents in the environment will be developed. Studying cancer as a molecular disease will lead to the cancer genome being used to identify genes important in cancer development. Molecular biographies of cancer will result in a clearer understanding and prognosis. In the area of cancer treatment he predicts surgery will become less invasive and new methods will be developed to deliver therapy directly to cancer cells. Knowledge of the molecular biographies of cancers will lead to targeted chemotherapies. Screening and prevention will improve the ability to identify tumor cells and blood markers for earlier detection, treatment, and screening. Finally he sees the acceptance of cancer as a chronic disease creating better chemo-preventative agents and a further decline in smoking will lead to a comparable decline in cancer. This course is highly recommended due to the information imparted about cancer, Dr. Sadava’s superb presentation, and because knowledge is power.
Date published: 2013-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What Science Knows about cancer I was just diagnosed with stage 1 esophageal cancer in April. After the initial shock wore off, I had many questions, but the reading material was so complex that I really did not find any answers. I found Dr Sadava's course extremely helpful! I have learned so much in just the first lessons. He gives information in a way that you do not need a medical degree to understand. He includes a lot of graphs that are easy to read and enhance the subject even more. If you have cancer, have a loved one with cancer or just enjoy science courses, I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2013-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wise words from a great man following his purpose David Sadava is a true outlier amongst professors, to whom countless students credit their career trajectories in science and medicine, due to his unique ability to convey the "So what?" of complex and rapidly advancing medical research concepts to give traction to the power of modern science. If you ever wondered what the relevance of all those complex cycles you had to memorize in Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Cell Biology is to you and your loved ones, watch this series. Sadava speaks, not only from his years of experience in the trenches of research medicine, but also from the humanity of one who has loved and lost dearly to a disease that has affected so many of us and our loved ones and is still one of the most medically challenging diseases to treat--cancer. His artful ability to convey the hope that his field is bringing to so many is not only the "So what?" that has inspired countless future doctors and research scientists, it is also his purpose--which he shares with elegance, wit, and passion. Thank you, Dr. Sadva, for all your contributions to education and science! We owe you a debt of gratitude for all you have shared. Respect, Doc Forever
Date published: 2013-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 'The Great Courses' Has Really Outdone Itself . .
Date published: 2013-05-03
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