KTH course: Clinical applications of biotechnology

The 3rd mandatory course of the KTH semester’s first period deals with the research into cancer fields with a special emphasis on breast cancer, clinical research with some insights into ethics of clinical research.

The course has three main aspects:

1. Theory lectures

The theory lectures focus on the fundamentals of breast cancer while touching upon various techniques that have helped in development of cancer research field through the years. Breast cancer pathology, biomarkers, imaging based screening, various therapeutic approaches are main topics covered regarding breast cancer. These topics were covered by Cecilia Williams, who is herself a senior and leading researcher in Cancer research.

Later lectures are focused on the fundamentals of Cardio Vascular Diseases (CVD) and Hemostasis.

2. Debate

One of the interesting part of this course was the debate on perspective of stake holders for clinical trials. Preceding the debate, we had a theory lecture where we discussed the differences between complexity of research in labs, clinical research and the translation of clinical research. We also discussed the role of various stakeholders at each level and how they not only contribute to the progress but also govern the research and implementation.

Various stakeholders during the translation of research from bench to clinics

Followed by this we were divided into teams of 4 to select a clinical trial to represent in the debate, write a white paper and finally present and discuss the trial in the debate as if we are the ones conducting the clinical trial. The debate was moderate by the faculty, where both the opposing team and moderator induced discussions on multiple interesting as well as morally controversial questions, which showed that the moral decisions that seem obvious at individual level can change widely from different stakeholder’s perspective.

3. Lab exercise

The last module of this course was the microfluidics lab. The aim of the lab was to understand the basics of microfluidics technology and the physics behind using microfluidics to separate particles of variable sizes. These particles can be tumor cells from the rest of the blood, however we worked with fluorescent particles of size similar to that of the tumor and blood cells. In the lab, we learned to use a microfluidics device, by understanding various parts of the device, the input and output connections, as well as collecting representative and accurate data.

Separation of different size particles using microfluidic chip

As part of post lab exercise, we wrote a report summarising the experiment, concept behind the technology, summary of data processing and analysis of results, as well as the various caveats and troubleshooting required while performing the experiment.