Teaching Cell Biology and Genetics Using Cancer

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This playlist can be used to teach several core topics in cell biology and genetics by connecting students with case studies and multimedia resources about cancer. The topics covered include the cell cycle, cancer, biotechnology, and genetic disease.

By completing the resources in this playlist, students will be able to:

  • Explain the steps and regulation of the cell cycle.
  • Interpret data to explain the role of tumor suppressors in cell cycle regulation. 
  • Predict which gene mutations cause cancer. Compare and contrast oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in particular.
  • Use evidence to support the following claims:
    • Cancer is typically caused by mutations in several genes.
    • Mutations in the same genes can be involved in the development of different types of cancers (i.e., breast cancer or lung cancer).
    • Mutations in different genes can cause the same type of cancer.
  • Use information on gene editing techniques to design experiments to “cure cancer.”

This playlist can be used in undergraduate biology courses. Implementing this playlist should take about 200 minutes of class time in total, spread out among other discussions and activities.

Cancer Cell Invasion
Topic
Genetics
Cell Biology
Resource Type
Activities

In this activity, students explore an image of tumor cells invading tissue, which serves as a phenomenon for learning about cancer.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students write three “I wonder...” or “I notice...” statements about the image.
  • Have students share their statements in small groups.
  • Use the discussion to explore students’ ideas about cell division and what may cause a “cell invasion” in tissues.

Estimated Time: 10 minutes.

The Eukaryotic Cell Cycle and Cancer
Topic
Genetics
Cell Biology
Resource Type
Interactive Media

In this Click & Learn, students explore the phases, checkpoints, and protein regulators of the cell cycle. The Click & Learn also shows how mutations in genes that encode cell cycle regulators can lead to the development of cancer.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students explore the Click & Learn and complete the “In-Depth Worksheet” as homework. Have them come to class with 2–3 questions about the material.
  • Lead a class discussion to review the material in the Click & Learn and answer student questions. 
  • Pose the question “How can we use evidence to show that mutations to a tumor suppressor gene affect cell division?” to transition into the next resource in the playlist.

Estimated Time: 20 minutes of class time to review.

Role of p53 in the Cell Cycle
Topic
Cell Biology
Science Practices
Resource Type
Activities

In this Data Point activity, students analyze a figure from a scientific article that investigated the role of p53 in cell cycle regulation.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Show the figure and caption from the Data Point to students.
  • Lead a class discussion about the trends in the data, the role of p53, and other questions found in the “Educator Materials.”
  • Pose the questions “Do you think all lung cancers are the same? Why or why not? Are mutations in certain genes associated only with specific cancers? How do you know?” to transition into the next resource in the playlist.

Estimated Time: 10 minutes.

Classifying Cancer Genes and Examining Patient Data
Topic
Genetics
Cell Biology
Resource Type
Activities

In these two activities, students explore the genetic basis of cancer using cards and posters. In Activity 1, they identify genes involved in cancer. In Activity 2, they investigate multiple types of cancer and the mutations that cause them. Students ultimately discover the complexity of cancer and possible treatment strategies.  

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students do part 1 of Activity 1 as homework, then complete the rest of the activity in class.
  • Lead a class discussion on whether gene mutations cause specific cancers.
  • Have students complete Activity 2 in class. 
  • Transition to the next resource in the playlist by telling students that they will now investigate one specific cancer-causing protein and drugs developed to treat the cancer.

Estimated Time: 100 minutes of class time total (50 minutes per activity).

BCR-ABL: Protein Structure and Function
Topic
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Genetics
Resource Type
Interactive Media

In this Click & Learn, students explore the structure and function of the cancer-causing protein BCR-ABL. The Click & Learn also shows how drugs targeting this protein can help treat chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of the white blood cells.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have students explore the Click & Learn and complete the “Student Worksheet” as homework. Have them come to class with 2–3 questions about the material.
  • Lead a class discussion to review the material in the Click & Learn and answer student questions. 

Estimated Time: 20 minutes of class time to review. 

CRISPR-Cas 9 Mechanism & Applications
Topic
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Genetics
Resource Type
Interactive Media

In this Click & Learn, students explore how CRISPR-Cas9 technology works and the many ways in which scientists are using it in their research.

To use this resource as part of this playlist:

  • Have student groups review the “How It Works” section of the Click & Learn in class. Instruct students to make labeled drawings of the steps on a separate piece of paper.
  • As a homework assignment, ask students to choose one of the scientists in the “How It’s Used” section, watch all the videos from the scientist, and then write a brief summary of how the scientist is using CRISPR-Cas9 in research.
  • As a summative assessment, have the students design an experiment to “cure cancer” using any technique they learned about. Hold a class discussion to reveal students’ ideas from this assessment.

Estimated Time: 40 minutes of class time total (15 minutes to explore the “How It Works” section, 10 minutes to come up with an experiment, and 15 minutes to discuss student ideas).