Cancer: Biology and Beyond. A Thematic Course Designed for Non-Science Majors Pamela K. Hanson Department of Biology, Birmingham-Southern College. The course schedule is divided into four major themes: -The Origins of Cancer -Diagnosing Cancer -Treating Cancer -Preventing Cancer
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Cancer: Biology and Beyond
A Thematic Course Designed for Non-Science Majors
Pamela K. Hanson
Department of Biology, Birmingham-Southern College
Students choose and research an interdisciplinary topic such as:
Techniques and Psychological Impact
The Biology and Psychology of Cancer Pain
Ethical Implications of Genetic Testing
to Evaluate Cancer Risk
Balancing Public Health and Civil Rights
Each student submits a 10-15 page paper on the topic and shares their findings with the rest of the class through a PowerPoint presentation.
The nature of the electromagnetic spectrum is discussed as students learn about tumor imaging.
Laboratory exercises include a mock ELISA to test for the presence of tumor markers/antigens.
Students also use prepared slides from Carolina Biological Supply to visualize cancerous tissues and gain an appreciation for the complexity of histology.
Images from: http://www.siumed.edu/~dking2/
“Cancer—Biology and Beyond” was developed as a non-majors course that fulfills Birmingham-Southern’s general education requirement that every student complete at least one laboratory science. In addition to meeting general education requirements, “Cancer—Biology and Beyond” is a 1Y Foundations course. Enrollment in 1Y courses is limited to first-year students, and these courses are designed to foster a sense of intellectual community and intellectual engagement by incorporating elements such as:
-collaborative learning practices
The course description in the College Catalog is:
A study of the development, progression, and treatment of cancer. The fundamentals of cell biology are learned by exploring the differences between normal and cancerous cells. In addition, the psychological and socioeconomic impacts of the disease are studied. Three hours of lecture and one three-hour laboratory per week.
This section of the course focuses on lifestyle choices that influence cancer risk. The topics discussed include:
-smoking and tobacco products
-cancer “causing” foods
-cancer “fighting” foods
A laboratory module on sunscreen is also included. Using a kit from Carolina Biological Supply, students explore the effects of sunscreen on preventing DNA damage. They begin by spreading a small amount of UV-sensitive yeast onto YPD-agar. The plate is covered with plastic wrap. Half of the plastic covering is “treated” with sunscreen, and the plate is exposed to sunlight for 25 minutes. After two days of incubation students observe how well the yeast survived in the presence and absence of sunscreen.
Students may choose to test the effects of other forms of sun protection, including sunglasses and clothing.
The class is divided into pairs, and each pair of students is assigned a specific cancer treatment. After conducting extensive library research on the topic, students present their findings to the rest of the class. The treatments discussed include:
• Cisplatin • Radiation Therapy
• Immunotherapy • Taxol
• Camptothecin• Gleevec
• Angiogenesis Inhibitors
I would like to thank Birmingham-Southern College for supporting the development of this course and associated laboratory modules through summer stipends.
During lecture students learn many fundamental concepts in biology including the nature of macromolecules, the central dogma of molecular biology, and the cell cycle. Students also explore more cancer-specific topics such as mutagenic and non-mutagenic carcinogens, cellular immortality, and metastasis.
These topics are complemented with several laboratory exercises, such as:
Extraction of DNA from Onions
This exercise reinforces student understanding of the chemical nature of macromolecules as they use various chemicals to separate DNA from proteins and lipids.
The Ames Test
Students use the Ames Test to characterize potential mutagens. Some of the concepts covered during this experiment include:
-How do you develop a hypothesis?
-How do you test a hypothesis?
-What are controls?
Students observe mitosis
in normal and irradiated root tips.
They visualize the stages of
mitosis as well as broken
Onion mitosis pictures are from: http://www.uky.edu/LCC/BSN/BIO/BiologyLabs/BSL110/110Lab4/Lab4MitosisSlides.html
Origins of Cancer