‪From Teenage to Old Age: How Cancer Develops Over Time‬

MIT Blossoms

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This lesson focuses on: how cancer is caused by mutations that accumulate over time in cells’ DNA, how the genes mutated in cancer are involved in normal cell growth & division, and how different types of mutations affect the functions of these genes. We recommend that this lesson be the first BLOSSOMS lesson on cancer, that the students use, from the series of three cancer lessons made by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard. It would be helpful if the students already knew basic information about DNA structure & function, and how mutations can affect the RNA & protein encoded by this DNA.  Only paper and writing utensils, and the ability to print out or display the provided handouts, are necessary to complete this lesson. This lesson is intended to take one or two class periods. The two most central hands-on activities in the lesson are as follows:

  • Students do an activity with a “mutation mat” (which is much like a bingo board) that shows how mutations accumulate in cells over time. This activity demonstrates why cancer is a disease of old age, because the more years that pass, the higher the chance that enough mutations have occurred in the relevant genes in a single cell, to cause it to become a cancer cell.
  • Students complete a worksheet about various examples of “mutations” that could affect a steam engine train and cause it to barrel out of control (for example: if the train’s brakes aren’t working, or if the coal shovelers are shoveling too quickly).

The lesson ends with two additional discussion topics: how a person can be pre-disposed to cancer if he/she inherits a mutation from his/her parents; and how different tissues in the body get exposed to different mutagens, thus causing different types of cancer.

For more information visit: http://blossoms.mit.edu/videos/lessons/teenage_old_age_how_cancer_develo...

Lesson tags: 
Good for Parents
Creative Commons License: 
Attribution Non-commercial ShareAlike CC (BY-NC-SA)

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May 2017