Cancer and the Cell Cycle
Focus: Students use five CD-ROM-based animations to help them construct an
explanation for how cancer develops, then use their new understanding to
explain several historical observations about agents that cause cancer.
Major Concepts: The growth and differentiation of cells in the body normally
are precisely regulated; this regulation is fundamental to the orderly process of
development that we observe across the life spans of multicellular organisms.
Cancer develops due to the loss of growth control in cells. Loss of control
occurs as a result of mutations in genes that are involved in cell cycle control.
Objectives: After completing this activity, students will
• understand that many different agents can cause cancer,
understand that cancer represents a breakdown of the processes that regulate
the growth of normal cells and tissues,
recognize that cancer develops as a result of genetic damage that occurs to
cells across time,
be able to explain that cancer is associated with the occurrence of damage to par
ticular classes of genes involved in the normal regulation of the cell cycle, and
understand that studying the processes involved in the development of can
cer has led to a significantly increased understanding of the normal cell cycle
as well as to new strategies for treating cancer.
Prerequisite Knowledge: Students should be familiar with mitosis, the cell
cycle, and terms such as “gene” and “mutation.”
Basic Science-Public Health Connection: This activity focuses students’ atten
tion on how understanding the basic biology of cancer can help us make sense
of the many observations people have made about risk factors related to cancer.
At a Glance
Cancer has been described as a single disease and a hundred diseases. The
description of cancer as a single disease arises from the observation that all cancers
display uncontrolled growth, the ability to expand without limit. The description
of cancer as a hundred diseases arises from t