Devils. The Plight of the Tasmanian Devils. Annie
Prud’homme Genereux, Quest University, Canada. The National
Center for Case Study Teaching in Science.
is usually thought to be a disease that affects
individuals. But could cancer evolve to become
infectious? This case follows the research on a form
of transmissible cancer that is decimating the
Tasmanian devil, the world’s largest carnivorous
marsupial. Students analyze two landmark papers that
uncovered the molecular mechanism of this cancer,
which is known as Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease
(DFTD). Through this case, students develop an
understanding of cancer, immunology, microbiology, and
cytogenetics in addition to becoming more comfortable
using primary research literature.
The case was
developed for third-year biology students in a
molecular biology course, but may also be used in
courses in genetics, evolution, immunology,
conservation, and research methods.
You Supersize My Cancer Please? A Case Study Exploring Chemicals
in the News". Ashley Coffelt and Mark
Richter Missouri State University. The National Center
for Case Study Teaching in Science.
recent discovery of acrylamide in both fried and baked
foods like French fries and potato chips has caused
alarm. Acrylamide is both a known carcinogen in
animals when administered in high doses and a
neurotoxin when humans are exposed to large amounts in
the workplace. However, the link between
acrylamide in food and human health is much less
clear. In working through the case,
students compare the accuracy of news headlines,
articles, and web pages with the information presented
in scientific journals.
This case was
designed for non-major science courses.
Risk: Using Real Medical Histories to Rank Genetic and
Environmental Influences". Michèle Shuster, New Mexico State
University, Karen Peterson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer
Research Center. The National Center for Case Study
Teaching in Science.
This case study takes a combined directed and discussion
approach to explore risk factors for breast cancer. After a
preparatory reading assignment, students assess various
medical histories derived from actual women with breast cancer
and rank their overall risk for breast cancer and make
recommendations for risk reduction. The task is complicated by
the different and often combined sources of risk (e.g.,
reproductive history, hormone replacement therapy and family
Originally written for an
introductory course, the case study could easily be adapted
for upper divisions to explore the biological and
biochemical basis underlying various risk factors.
"But I'm Too Young! A Case Study of Ovarian Cancer" Nancy Rice, Western Kentucky University and Bruno Borsari, Winona State University. The National Center for
Case Study Teaching in Science.
In the present case, students are introduced to Abby, a college student who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As they follow Abby's
plight, students learn about basic cellular and genetic mechanisms that are responsible for cancer formation, gaining a general understanding of
how cells become cancerous through genetic mutations, how cancers can spread throughout the body by metastasizing, and how modern medicine is currently
treating patients diagnosed with cancer through surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
This case is appropriate for high school general biology classes, and undergraduate cell biology, general medicine, and genetics/heredity courses.
"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)
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.
Scientists race to find the gene
that causes breast cancer.
"Biology of Cancer" Phillis,
Randal W. and Goodwin, Steve. The Benjamin Cummings Special
Topics in Biology Series. Pearson Education, Inc.
2003. This booklet
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
"Tumor Busting Viruses"
Nettlebeck, Dirk M. and Curiel, David T. Current
in Biology. Scientific American, Inc. October 2003. 13-21.
a strategy that uses genetically engineered viruses to
attack and destroy cancer cells. This article explains how
and why most virotherapy utilizes the adenovirus and how the
virus is engineered to find and attach to the tumor cell.
There are many strategies that the virotherapist can use to
accomplish this and this article explains several of them.
The article is followed by a comprehension quiz and
some critical thinking questions.
“Cancer: Clues from Yeast’s
Cell-Division Cycle”. Pines, Maya. The Genes We
Share with Yeast, Flies, Worms, and Mice: New Clues to Human
Health and Disease. Howard Hughes Medical Institute
(2001). Reproduction in yeast occurs via budding. Any mutation that ceases the offspring
from developing is easily found. Depending
on the size of the bud, the mutation can be traced to a specific
time in the developmental stage. The
same genes involved in stopping the growth in yeast cells were
also found to be major players in human cancer cell growth. The article also offers a brief overview
of cancer and genetics.
"Gene therapy rids 2 of melanoma".
Kaplan, Karen. Post and Courier.
September 1, 2006.
genetically modified tumor-fighting immune cells.
Patients are able to rid themselves of an aggressive form of
cancer. This helps to push the success of gene therapy
forward. The treated patients are cancer free one and
one-half years later. Researchers have isolated T-cells
for other forms of cancer that may be able to be treated in a