Cancer and DNA

This loan kit includes a problem-based learning case and hands-on modeling kit designed to teach students about the genetics of cancer and cancer predisposition. Students read through a fictional scenario in which a teenage girl is diagnosed with osteosarcoma and suspected of having inherited mutations that increase her risk of developing cancer. 


Learning Objectives

In this lesson, students will:

  • Define DNA;
  • Recognize that genes provide information for physical traits;
  • Define cancer, specifically osteosarcoma;
  • Describe signs and symptoms of osteosarcoma; 
  • Compare and contrast x-rays from a normal bone versus one with osteosarcoma;
  • Differentiate between inherited and spontaneous cancer;



What is DNA? Close Read (student version / teacher version)

A Tree of Genetic Traits

3D Molecular Design DNA Modeling Kit

Gene Expression Video

Monster DNA Activity

Cancer in the Family (student handout / ppt)

How to Draw a Family Pedigree Instructions (handout


Time Required

3 x 45 minute class periods


Pacing Guide

Day 1: Genetic Traits

15-20 minutes

What is DNA? close read

15-20 minutes

A Tree of Genetic Traits

5 minutes



Day 2: Exploring DNA

8-10 minutes

DNA Extraction

20-25 minutes

DNA Modeling

 8-10 minutes



Day 3: Deciphering the Code

10-15 minutes

Gene Expression Video

25-30 minutes

Monster DNA 


Day 4: Cancer in the Family

5-7 minutes

Part 1: Running Pains

5-7 minutes

Part 2: The Diagnosis

25-30 minutes

Part 3: Making a Family Pedigree