Cell Signaling in Cancer activity

Developed by: Jon Stoltzfus

Cell Signaling Activity: Role of Signaling in Cancer

Campbell's Biology, 9th ed. Chapter 11

****Note:  In this class, chaper 11 is is taught after chapters 16-18 which cover DNA replication, transcription, translation, and regulation of gene expression.****

Connection to Vision and Change*

Core Concepts


The growth and behavior of organisms are activated through the expression of genetic information in context.

Core Competencies and Disciplinary Practice


Biology focuses on the study of complex systems.

*Vision and Change: A Call to Action. Washington, DC: AAAS; 2010.  http://visionandchange.org/files/2011/03/Revised-Vision-and-Change-Final-Report.pdf


  • Identify basic signal transduction components in a model for control of cell cycle.
  • Based on the model, explain how different signals impact the cell cycle.
  • Identify potential proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes in the model.
  • Use the model to predict changes in this signaling pathway that may lead to cancer.
  • Design interventions that will stop the growth of cancer cells.


At the beginning of class, students are given a diagram depicting two signaling pathways, one which induces progression through the cell cycle, one which prevents progression through the cell cycle.  They are also presented with the objectives for the activity.  A series of brief (5-10 minute) mini-lectures are given on key aspects of signal transduction and cancer.  At the end of each mini-lecture, students identify relevant components in the diagram using clicker questions.  During the last part of the class period students answer clicker questions asking them to predict how a variety of changes in the pathway would impact the cell cycle and what types of changes could lead to cancer.  Finally, students are asked to design an intervention that would help treat cancer caused by some of these changes.  The students are then asked to share their ideas.  A final clicker question asks students choose interventions that might be useful in treating cancer.

Handout for students to view signaling in cancer pathway203.23 KB
Lecture slides and clicker questions for signaling in cancer activity2.6 MB

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.