Program Overview

In this workshop, students will dive into the world of personalized medicine for breast cancer. First, they’ll take on the role of doctors, analysing patient family histories to determine the source of their two patients’ cancer – genetic or epigenetic. They’ll then practice their lab skills using micropipettes to load samples into practice gels before running their own gel electrophoresis analysis to confirm which patient has the genetic predisposition to cancer. While they wait for these results, students will switch gears and become diagnosticians, running a simulated microarray to determine the best course of chemotherapy for each patient.

By analysing the patients’ genes and their compatibility with different drugs, they’ll gain valuable experience in how modern genetics and technology are revolutionizing cancer treatment by allowing for personalized therapy based on a patient’s unique genetic makeup.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Define the terms “Genes, DNA, Chromosomes, Cells, Organisms”
  • Define the terms “genetics” and “epigenetics”
  • Compare and contrast genetics and epigenetics
  • Summarize the different mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance
  • Interpret genetic data to verify if a disease is genetic or epigenetic.
  • Explain how epigenetic changes can contribute to complex diseases such as cancer
  • Conduct an experiment to study genetic and epigenetic diagnosis.
  • Use genetic principles to solve real-world problems, such as breast cancer origin.
  • Apply genetic and epigenetic knowledge to diagnose and recommend chemotherapy treatment.

Pre/post work activities are emailed on booking


Student Introduction Video

Youtube Link:

Curriculum Strength: Science / Ethical Capabilities

Curriculum Domain:
Year 9 and 10
ElaborationWorkshop Link
Science Understanding: Science as Human EndeavourScientific understanding, including models and theories, are contestable and are refined over time through a process of review by the scientific communityStudents are introduced to new concepts in genetic understanding, such as epigenetics and how the scientific community is better understanding how our genes are influenced and expressed.
Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries

The values and needs of contemporary society can influence the focus of scientific research
Epigenetics is a relative new study in biology and concepts are still being discovered and understood. Students understand the different types of technology that has been used to identify scientific reasoning in new discoveries of epigenetics, genetic diagnosis, ethical issues surrounding these and how science might be able to better diagnose and treat patients with diseases such as cancer
The transmission of heritable characteristics from one generation to the next involves DNA and genes Students are provided with a simulated story of 2 patients with breast cancer. They are able to role play the part of the diagnosing doctor, looking at patient and family histories of disease. This enables students to draw on their knowledge of heritable characteristics and apply their understanding to this concept.
Science Inquiry and Skills:
Questioning and Predicting
Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientificallyStudents study patient case histories and construct a hypothesis to determine which patient has the genetic cancer (BRACA1 gene) and which patient has derived their cancer through epigenetic effects.
Recording and ProcessingConstruct and use a range of representations, including graphs, keys, models and formulas, to record and summarise data from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, to represent qualitative and quantitative patterns or relationships, and distinguish between discrete and continuous data Students use prepared tables to record data, using a key to record.

Qualitative data (discrete data) from both activities
Analysing and EvaluatingAnalyse patterns and trends in data, including describing relationships between variables, identifying inconsistencies in data and sources of uncertainty, and drawing conclusions that are consistent with evidence

Use knowledge of scientific concepts to evaluate investigation conclusions, including assessing the approaches used to solve problems, critically analysing the validity of information obtained from primary and secondary sources, suggesting possible alternative explanations and describing specific ways to improve the quality of data

Using the micro-array data, student evaluate a drug treatment process based for each patient.

They conclude which patient has the genetic (BRACA1 gene) cancer and which patient has derived her cancer through potential epigenetic effects.

Students discuss the validity of the micro-array process, including cost, and understand the personalise medication process in reducing the treatment and therefore recovery process.
CommunicatingCommunicate scientific ideas and information for a particular purpose, including constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions and representations Back at School - post KIOSC work
Capabilities: Ethical

Understanding Concepts
Explore a range of ethical problems and examine the extent to which different positions are related to commonly held ethical concepts and principles, considering the influence of cultural norms, religion, world views and philosophical thought Students discuss the role of ethics in genetic technologies.