The Environment and Cancer

Problems/Case Studies

"Cancer Cure or Conservation" Pauline A. Lizotte, Valencia Community College, and Gretchen E. Knapp, Illinois State University. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching.
This case is based on the controversies surrounding harvesting of the Pacific yew from 1989 to 1997 to develop paclitaxel (Taxol), a revolutionary anti-cancer drug. The case was designed to expose students to basic conservation biology concepts by examining competing needs among scientists and other stakeholders in a real-life science-and-society scenario.
Developed for a undergraduate introductory biology course for non-majors, the case could also be used in an environmental science course or in a course on the impact of science and technology on society.

"Mother's Milk Cures Cancer? Researchers Deliberate Over Whether to Publish" Linda Tichenor, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
This case study on the immune system, cell cycle regulation, and cancer biology explores the role that serendipity plays in new discoveries in science, how scientific research is funded, and the personal and professional implications of unexpectedly finding one's self on the "cutting-edge."
The case was developed to help undergraduates, particularly non-science majors, understand how politics and culture play a vital role in the scientific process, and that scientific research is provisional and a product of social and cultural interaction. In addition to these issues, the case explores key concepts and content in biology and biochemistry, including the control of cell division, apoptosis, immunity development, microbial biology, genetic engineering, and breast feeding in humans.

"How a Cancer Trial Ended in Betrayal". Ye Chen-Izu, University of Maryland School of Medicine. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
In this case study, students learn about the complexities and issues associated with clinical trials. After reading a newspaper story about a fraudulently conducted clinical trial involving a treatment for skin cancer, students simulate their own small-scale "clinical trial" in class. The simulation involves a secret breaching of a blind test and manipulation of data to favor a positive effect for a particular proprietary drug. As part of the simulation, students examine "before" and "after" photographs of skin lesions from "patients."
Developed for first- or second-year college students, the case focuses on the scientific method, with special attention to the issues of objectivity and ethics in scientific research. The case study can be adapted to emphasize other topics, such as the pathophysiology and treatment of cancer.  It can also be tailored to specific student populations, such as health professional students.

"Not an Old Person's Disease". Jennifer Miskowski and Anne Galbraith, University of WisconsinLa Crosse. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching

Judy, 20 years old, fair-haired and fair-skinned, covets the kind of suntan her friend Mariah seems to be able to get effortlessly while all Judy has to show for the hours she spends broiling in the sun is a bad sunburn. While sunbathing one day Judy notices that a mole on her leg has started to itch. Not only that, it looks different. She goes to her doctor, who recommends a biopsy to determine if the mole is malignant or benign. The overall goal of this case is to introduce students to the genetic basis of cancer development while teaching them about melanoma.
This case was written specifically for a general education health and wellness class taken by students ranging from first-year students to seniors, and from non-science majors to biology majors.

CNN Video Clips

Topic: Screening for Colon Cancer: Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (1:54)
Baseball player, Darryl Strawberry, is shown speaking after his surgery for colon cancer.  Researchers have discovered that a certain genetic defect occurs at an elevated frequency in people who develop this cancer.  Because the defect occurs in both the cancer and in normal tissue, it may allow doctors to identify those who are at increased risk for the cancer.  The current screening procedure is shown.  It uses a flexible scope that reaches only the lower third of the colon and, because it is invasive, many people avoid it. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: Skin Sun Damage: Biology 7th Ed. CNN Ed 2003 (1:23)
A man is shown being treated for actinic kerotoses (AK), which are pre-cancerous skin lesions.  The man recounts his extensive sun exposure as his dermatologist shows how his skin is covered with bumps.  The treatment he undergoes involves painting the AK lesions with a light absorbing pigment, then exposing him to blue light to kill the damaged cells.  Similar results can be attained with a month's application of creams.  Forty percent of Caucasians develop AK.  The best defense is to minimize sun exposure. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Legacy of Agent Orange": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (2:47)
Approximately 100,000 Americans were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.  A new study suggests that their offspring are at an increased risk for chronic myelogenous leukemia.  The study has been criticized for relying on self-reporting to determine Agent Orange exposure.  However, exposure to Agent Orange has already been linked to increased risk for three forms of cancer and to adult-onset diabetes.  In addition, it as been shown to increase the risk of spina bifida among offspring.  The worksheet includes the URL for the Veteran’s Administration Agent Orange web pages. (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic: "Drug Targets Leukemia": Biology 5th Ed. CNN Ed 2001 (2:21)
Gleevec, a new cancer drug, is proving to be a powerful weapon against chronic myelogenous leukemia.  A woman is interviewed who was diagnosed with leukemia, treated with Gleevec, and is now in remission. Physicians caution that, with only two years of use, it is premature to say the drug can cure leukemia.  However, the results are extremely promising. Unlike conventional chemotherapy, which kills cells indiscriminately, Gleevec selectively targets a protein that is produced only in cancer cells.  As a result, the side effects are minimal.  The drug also shows promise against other cancers.  The worksheet includes the URL for the National Cancer News Center Web Site. (Student worksheet provided on CD)


"Biology of Cancer" Phillis, Randal and Goodwin, Steve.  The Benjamin Cummings Special Topics in Biology Series.  Pearson Education, Inc. 2003. 
This article discusses where cancer cells come from, how cells have genetic defects, the cell cycle, cancer cells, the evolution of tumor cells, how hereditary and sporadic cancer compare and contrast.  

Articles in “Taking Sides”

"Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?" Easton, Thomas. Taking Sides: Science, Technology, and Society, sixth edition.
Issue Summary: