Cancer a genetic disease
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Cancer : A Genetic Disease. Drill: Write down 1 thing you know about the disease. What would you most like to learn about cancer / What question would you most like answered?. It affects millions of lives every year – so always use respect when discussing cancer. What is Cancer?.

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Cancer : A Genetic Disease

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Cancer :A Genetic Disease


Write down 1 thing you know about the disease.

What would you most like to learn about cancer / What question would you most like answered?

It affects millions of lives every year – so always use respect when discussing cancer

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer is a growth of cells that do not stop dividing. It is a progressive disease.

Benign vs. Malignant Tumors

  • A Benign (buh-nine) tumor is one made of cells that don’t spread around the body.

  • A malignant (aka cancerous) tumor is made of cells that can spread throught the body and make new tumors.

What causes cancer?

  • Mutations in certain genes cause the cancer cells to divide without stopping. (Normal cells stop growing when they’re in contact with other cells)

What causes these mutations?

  • Anything that can cause mutations in cells is a carcinogen.

Ok… but what causes mutations?

1: Certain chemicals can alter a DNA sequence by changing the sequence of bases.

2: Radiation:Careful with that Sunlight!

3: Viruses

  • Many viruses, like this one (HPV) can insert their genetic information into the DNA of their hosts. This mutation can sometimes lead to cancer.

  • HPV causes genital warts & is strongly linked with cervical cancer.

  • Why do you think the HPV vaccine (approved in the last year) is controversial?

Mutation Happens

  • Mutations happen all of the time in your body – but your cells have a lot of tricks for keeping your DNA in good shape!

The DNA Repair Kit

  • The DNA repair kit is a group of enzymes that fix mutations when they happen.

  • Cells may commit suicide (called apoptosis) when important genes malfunction, preventing cancer.

Broken Repair Kit = bad news.

  • Some mutations cause the repair kit to malfunction.

  • For example, a mutation in a gene that makes a DNA repair enzyme might make a non-functional protein or no protein at all!

  • Cells with bad repair kits will then accumulate more mutations

It’s Probability! That’s why cancer rates increase with age.

What we’ve seen so far:

  • Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of cells.

    • What process isn’t controlled anymore?

  • Cancer is a progressive disease.

    • Malignancy is one of the most dangerous characteristics of cancer – what is it?

  • Cancer is caused by mutations in DNA that affect cell growth and function

  • Cancer cells accumulate more mutations.

Can it be prevented?

  • Yes, but not 100%

  • Anything that reduces the number of mutations your cells suffer reduces your chances of developing cancer, so…

Are some people “predisposed” to cancer? YES

  • Being born with certain mutant forms of different genes can affect your chances of developing cancer.

  • For example – if some of your DNA repair mechanisms don’t work, you’re more likely to accumulate mutations.

  • If science could tell you approximately when you might develop cancer, would you want to know?

What genes are involved? Hundreds, perhaps thousands.

  • DNA microarrays like this one can show which genes a cell is transcribing, and how fast.

  • By comparing cancer cells to normal cells, scientists can identify what’s going wrong in cancer cells

Is cancer always fatal? NO!


  • Surgery

  • Chemotherapy

    • Uses modified nucleotides to cause rapidly dividing cells (like cancer cells) to mutate and die off.

  • Radiation

    • Targets the cancer cells and destroies them.

The Future

  • Individualized genetic fixes

  • Drugs targeted to cancer cells

  • Gene therapy (inserting new genes to a person)

  • Better screening

  • Better tissue transplants – stem cells?

  • Nanobots?

Exit Ticket & Homework

  • Read “Cancer” pp . 211-214

  • Exit Ticket: Answer the following questions before you leave!

    • What is cancer?

    • What causes cancer?

    • What cell process is uncontrolled in cancer cells?

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