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Connecting the Concepts – Assignment #1

Required Reading and Materials:

Bissell, M.J. and Hines, W.C. (2011) Why don’t we get more cancer? A proposed role of the microenvironment in restraining cancer progression. Nature Medicine;17(3):320-9.

TED Talk: Mina Bissell, In Cancer Context is Critical (2012). http://www.ted.com/talks/mina_bissell_experiments_that_point_to_a_new_understanding_of_cancer.html

Assignment Format – essay or presentation option (CHOOSE ONE):

Essay option: prepare a 3 – 5 page essay (double spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font) to answer one of the problems below. Include at least 3 scholarly references. Please submit your essay to turnitin.com by midnight on Feb. 22nd.

Presentation option: Assemble a 10 – 12 slide powerpoint presentation (excluding the title slide and reference slide) to address one of the problems below (as if you were giving a lecture). Each slide should include at least one relevant image to assist in your explanation of the topic. If you choose this option, you must also submit a brief 1 page synopsis of your presentation. Include at least 3 scholarly references (images should be referenced as well). Please submit the one page synopsis to turnitin.com by midnight on Feb. 22nd.

Note: This assignment is based on very “big picture” problems, and I do not expect you to provide an extremely detailed, expert view on this topic. The goal of this assignment is to present your understanding of a key concept in cancer biology in an organized and thoughtful manner. This will most likely require you to read and consider more information than you will ultimately discuss. As a graduate student, this is an important skill (to review and analyze a variety of sources surrounding a central topic, then provide a well-informed - but relatively brief - perspective on a focused topic). The bottom line is, you will not be able to discuss everything. Choose several main concepts as your focus, and work to connect these ideas for your audience.

Assignment problems (CHOOSE ONE):

In the first four chapters, we have learned about the classification of various types of cancer, the nature of cancer (hallmarks of cancer, environmental contributions to cancer, and altered metabolism), and early work with tumor viruses that paved to the way to approaching cancer biology from a molecular/genetic perspective. The review by Bissell and Hines adds an additional perspective to our current understanding of cancer – the role of the tumor microenvironment.

The goal for “Connecting the Concepts – Assignment #1” is to integrate these topics to discuss a comprehensive view of the nature of cancer.

Choose ONE of the following problems for this assignment:

1. The Mystery of Tissue Specificity. As a result of advanced genetic and molecular techniques, many germline mutations (inherited mutations passed down to offspring as opposed to somatic mutations acquired during the adult lifetime) associated with an increased risk of developing cancer have been identified (see the COSMIC database, germline mutations for a complete list here): http://cancer.sanger.ac.uk/cosmic/census/tables?name=gmuts.

Choose one germline mutation as your topic focus. Discuss the normal function of the gene as well as the role of the mutated gene in cancer development and/or progression, the type of cancer(s) associated with this mutation (keeping in mind classifications from Ch. 2), and the role of the tumor microenvironment in the development and/or progression of the specific cancer discussed. If specific information is not available on the influence of the microenvironment on this particular tumor type, provide informed speculation based on your reading.

2. Tumor viruses.

Choose a well characterized tumor virus as your topic focus (note: you may choose a virus that infects either humans or animals). Discuss the nature of the virus, the type of cancer(s) associated with this virus (keeping in mind classifications from Ch. 2), the role of the virus in tumor formation and/or progression, and the role of environment/microenvironment in the development of the virus-associated cancer. More specifically, being infected with a tumor causing virus does not guarantee the development of cancer (for ex, HPV infection and cervical cancer). What environmental factors influence the risk of developing cancer if infected with this virus? If specific information is not available on the influence of environmental/microenvironmental factors on this particular virus-associated tumor type, provide informed speculation based on your reading.

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