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Bioinformatics of Cancer

Graduate Fellow Shawn Yost & Teacher Partner Darci Kimball

Students explore the procedure used to determine if a patient has cancer.

During this 2-day activity, high school biology students will explore what is cancer, what causes cancer, and how patients are diagnosed and treated for cancer. The students will play the role of a physician (doctor), pathologist, and bioinformatics scientist in order to determine if their patient has cancer based on the evidence presented. Students will get to see cancer cells from actual patients and learn how the latest science is being applied to the medical field.   

Duration: Two to three 50-minute periods. The length of the activity depends on how much prior knowledge the students have about the Central Dogma, how in-depth you go, and the materials you have available.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Students will be able to differentiate a cancer cell from a normal cell using a microscope.
  • Students will understand the difference between a cancer cell and normal cell.
  • Students will understand the process of diagnosing a cancer patient.
  • Students will understand how a physician, pathologist, and bioinformatics scientist work together to give the best possible treatment.
  • Students will be able to use online resources to predict and visualize 3D structures of proteins.
  • Students will be able to assemble DNA fragments together to make one DNA sequence.
  • Students will understand how bioinformatics works, specifically how it is apply to the human genome.


Teacher Guide (pdf)

Normal Kidney (jpg)

Pancreas Tumor (jpg)

Pancreas Tumor 2 (jpg)

Pathologist Duties for All Patients

Patient Back Story

Patient A

Patient B