Education Technology

Breast Cancer: When Good DNA Goes Bad

From investigating the exponential growth of breast cancer cells to
understanding the genetics of the disease, this TI Nspire™
problem-based learning simulation takes students inside the real
world of cancer research, diagnostics and treatment.

Explore the STEM behind
real-life, life-saving research

TI and Sanford Health's cancer researchers and medical professionals designed this innovative activity to help middle grades and high school students make meaningful connections by exploring, observing and reasoning with science and mathematics.

The simulation engages students in:

  • Working with models of replication to understand the cause of cancerous cells
  • Understanding differences between normal cells and cancerous cells
  • Exploring exponential growth

Dr. Kristi Egland keeps the malignant tumor that was removed from her right breast in 2007 embedded in paraffin in a drawer in her desk.

“When I was handed my tumor, I finally felt like I had control. To this day, I feel empowered when I take my tumor out of my desk drawer,” says Dr. Egland, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

That empowerment is driving her research to find more effective ways to “answer the most frustrating question I encountered during my treatment. Do I still have breast cancer?”

She shared her experience as a scientist/survivor to help develop Breast Cancer: When Good DNA Goes Bad because “it opens up the conversation for young people and takes away the fear of talking about those parts of your body.”

"The activity also is important because students learn the science behind the disease. Cancer is caused by mutations in a cell's DNA, which enable the cells to divide uncontrollably. Cancer can happen to anyone — even a scientist who studies the disease."

Dr. Egland’s breast cancer required aggressive treatment: a double mastectomy, grueling chemotherapy (8 rounds) and radiation therapy (33 rounds). Five years of being cancer-free is, she says, the “gold standard” for being categorized as cured, a milestone she passed in 2012.

“I have matured as a scientist. I’m not afraid of proving myself wrong when I ask a scientific question. I do not give up. I am only limited by my ideas, and I always have another idea. I know why I get up and go into my research lab every morning,” she says.

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Try TI-Nspire™ for free and experience this engaging STEM Behind Health activity, as well as other TI-Nspire™ digital resources.

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Bringing students into the fight against breast cancer

Dr. Anu Gaba sees the TI-Nspire™ simulation, Breast Cancer: When Good DNA Goes Bad, as an exciting way to engage students in STEM disciplines that she and her colleagues use every day in the search for more effective diagnostics, treatments and cures.

“The more young people we can get this message out to, the more they’ll be aware about the possibilities of career pathways in science, research, medicine, and health related field,” she says.

Dr. Gaba and her colleagues at the Edith Sanford Breast Center are at the front of genomic cancer research that “allows us to identify inherited changes, passed on from generation to generation, and changes in the tumor genetics that may determine treatment,” she says.

She also says the TI-Nspire™ simulation extends the Center’s commitment to empowering women to be proactive about their health into the middle grades and high school science classroom:

“Girls need to be aware of their body and know what’s normal. If they think something isn’t right, check in, take care of yourself and if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out.”