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Using p53 to Fight Cancer

More About Using p53 To Fight Cancer

A problem with most current cancer treaments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, is that they harm both cancerous and normal cells.

A new experimental method takes advantage of the fact that many cancer cells have a mutant for of the protein p53. In the treatment, all cells are exposed to a genetically modified cold virus that infects both cancerous and normal cells. However as the viral DNA tries to replicate in the nucleus of a normal cell it is suppressed by the presence of healthy p53 protein. In the cancer cell however, p53 is mutant and inactive, and therefore the cell cannot defend itself from the invading viral DNA, which ultimately kills it.

Background on Using p53 to Fight Cancer

Knowing the genetic path that a particular cancer follows could someday help physicians better treat individual patients. By determining the genetic defects responsible for a specific cancer, physicians might be able to select the therapy that will be most effective at eliminating that cancer. Furthermore, each cancer-causing gene that researchers identify can serve as a target for the development of more specific therapies that will wipe out cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

From lecture 2 of the 2003 Holiday Lectures Series "Learning From Patients: The Science of Medicine."

Teaching Tips

The animations in this section have a wide variety of classroom applications. Use the tips below to get started but look for more specific teaching tips in the near future. Please tell us how you are using the animations in your classroom by sending e-mail to biointeractive@hhmi.org.

  1. Use the animations to make abstract scientific ideas visible and concrete.
  2. Explain important scientific principles through the animations. For example, the biological clocks animations can be used to demonstrate the fundamentals of transcription and translation.
  3. Make sure that students learn the material by repeating sections of the animations as often as you think necessary to reinforce underlying scientific principles. You can start, restart, and play back sections of the animations.
  4. Urge students to use the animations in accordance with their own learning styles. Students who are more visually oriented can watch the animations first and read the text later, while others might prefer to read the explanations first and then view the graphics.
  5. Incorporate the animations into Web-based learning modules that you create to supplement your classroom curricula.
  6. Encourage students to incorporate the animations into their own Web-based projects.


The 2003 Holiday Lectures Series "Learning From Patients: The Science of Medicine."


Director: Dennis Liu, Ph.D.

Scientific Direction: Bert Voglestein, M.D.

Scientific Content: Satoshi Amagai, Ph.D.

Animator: Chris Vargas

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