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CourseSource articles linked to the GSA Genetics Learning Framework cross-posted here with permission    

Building a Model of Tumorigenesis: A small group activity for a cancer biology/cell biology course




Leslie Kate Wright



The multistep nature of tumorigenesis is a foundational concept in the context of Cancer Biology. Many students do not appreciate the complex nature of cancer development nor do they understand how scientists are able to unravel the molecular pathways that lead to tumorigenesis. In this small group activity, students are presented with background information about the multistep nature of tumorigenesis and complete a priming activity that allows them to brainstorm and discuss experimental design. Students are then presented with data from the landmark manuscript, published in 1998 by Vogelstein et al., describing the first pathway of genetic alterations associated with colorectal tumor development. Using selected pieces of the manuscript, students answer discussion questions and analyze the data presented in the paper. Using their analysis, students are able to create a scientifically valid molecular model of colorectal development that matches the model presented in the literature. The group activity can be followed by a whole class discussion about current knowledge about colorectal tumor development.


Genetics Concept(s) Addressed:

Genetic variation: How do different types of mutation affect genes and the corresponding mRNAs and protiens?


Core Competencies Addressed:

Students should be able to gather and evaluate experimental evidence, including qualitative and quantitative data.

Students should be able to apply statistical methods when analyzing their data, and use patterns to construct a model.



Upper level undergraduate; biology/genetics majors

Activity Type:


Activity Length:


75 minutes




Wright, L.K. 2015. Building a Model of Tumorigenesis: A small group activity for a cancer biology/cell biology course. CourceSource. 00:xxx. doi:00.0000/ journal.cs.000000

Article in CourseSource