Cancer Genetics

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I am working on finishing up two manuscripts that touch upon aspects of cancer genetics and recently gave a guest lecture about cancer genetics in an undergraduate biology class. While I am actively thinking about it I want to collect some notes and resources together here.

Notes from a guest lecture on cancer genetics

Most people have direct personal experience with cancer. Either they themselves, a family member, or a close friend has been affected by cancer.

Briefly review mitosis and the cell cycle.

Give an example of the interactions of pRB, E2F, Cyclin D1, and Cdk4.

Introduce Retinoblastoma.

Cdk and cyclin amplification (multiple copies) and hyperactivation (overexpression) to oncogenes.

Introduce p53.

The discovery of cyclins.

Cell cycle control regulatory network and Rube-Goldberg Machines

Self resetting machines.

wee1- rum1- double mutant.

Cancer is a breakdown of cellular cooperation in multicellular organisms.

Cells in multicellular organisms depend extensively on signals from other cells (like growth signals, cell death, etc.).

Example of Notch Delta

Enabling processes in the development of cancer.

Development of a benign tumor.

Transition of a benign tumor into a malignant tumor.

Two general gene categories, oncogenes and tumor suppressors.

What increases the rates of cancer?

Rous sarcoma virus example.

Inherited components versus environmental causes.

Lifetime risk of cancer.

Rates of cancer over the last 100 years.

The lag time between smoking and lung cancer

Cancer incidence and age

Cancer across the tree of life

Several factors have made cancer hard to study in the past. One of these may be that traditional model organisms are, unlike humans, short lived. In many ways cancer is a disease of age and possibly body size. Insights have come from studying a range of non-traditional long-lived species.

Peto’s paradox.

Elephants, Naked Mole Rats, Plants

Transmissible cancer

Tasmanian devils, shellfish.

Could cancer cells survive in sea water on their own and escape from their host? (Myxosporea?)

Broadening our focus: social cancer of super-organisms?

The importance of the immune system in cancer

The importance of pure research

Classes here at UH

BIOL/MCB 472 Biology of Cancer, Howard Shen.


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