Monday, March 20, 2017

Contemplating Cancer: A 3-2-1 Analysis of the Cancer Patient Data Activity

Three Things You Learned from the Activity
  1. Different genes can cause the same cancer.  On the patients we looked at today, there was not a single gene that each person in my group all had in common.  Each of us had different genes, and yet the mutations all led to the same type of cancer.
  2. Cancer takes more than one mutation.  All of the patient cards we had had at least two genes that contributed to the cancer, some had four or even six different genes that played into it.  Even within the groups the numbers varied, yet nobody had one gene that by itself caused cancer.
  3. Certain chromosomes have more potential cancerous genes than others.  Chromosomes such as 12, 17, and 7 all contain many genes that are known to cause cancer when mutated.  This could be seen in the prevalence of mutated genes on these chromosomes between all of the groups, even those with different cancers.
Two Things That Surprised or Interested You
  1. One thing that surprised me was from the research I looked into on a gene associated with a specific type of Hepatic cancer.  The gene was a hybrid of two other genes and it was found in 100% of the cases of this cancer that they looked into.  This is wild, especially since the activity we did was stressing how different genes can cause the same cancer.
  2. Another thing that interested me was the way the different genes worked together.  Through the function column on the patient cards we got, I noticed that most (if not all) of the cards had genes with multiple functions.  At first I was confused by the lack of correlation, but then I realized that naturally, the multiple genes affecting different functions of the cell would make it much more debilitated.
One Question You Still Have
  1. After this activity, I am still a bit confused on the logistics of how these cells become mutated.  Obviously it is not something normal in your genome, otherwise all of our cells would be cancerous, and that just would not work.  This means that something mutates the genes in this cell, which seems like an epigenetic/environmental factor; however, we always talk about cancer as something that is heritable.  These things seem a little contradictory to me and I was wondering how they fit together.

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