Activating apoptosis pathways to treat cancer – At GTAC

Full day program

Educational design team - Jacinta Duncan, Autumn Bricker, Claire Melna, Daniel Xia, Mingchun Liu

This program is currently under construction and may change slightly prior to delivery. Teachers will be provided with an updated program should this occur.

Students use modelling to explore protein structure and function, protein expression and cell signalling pathways as they test and refine theories relating to apoptosis. They carry out a series of experiments to investigate whether drugs may be useful in activating apoptosis to treat cancer cells:

  • Quantify the levels of an apoptosis protein in cells by performing a protein gel and Western blot,
  • perform gel electrophoresis to look for the DNA ladders indicative of apoptosis,
  • use fluorescence microscopy to establish whether phosphatidylserine is on the surface of apoptotic cells marking them for phagocytosis, and
  • apply 3D cell imaging to observe the characteristic blebbing of cells undergoing apoptosis.

Please note that students may be required to carry out pre-program and post-program online courses to support delivery of this program.

At the beginning of the onsite program home school teachers will assume the role of scientist, working alongside GTAC education staff to support students to begin their practical work. Scientist mentors will then work with students from 11.15am. Teachers will be provided training at the beginning of the day and through media clips to coach them in relevant techniques.


Level - Unit 3 VCE Biology

Venue - At GTAC in Parkville

Timing - Full day program: runs 9:30am - 2:45pm with a one hour lunch break

Approximate dates - Term 2: 12th May - 26th May  2020


Curriculum links

Unit 3 AOS1 - How do cellular processes work?

Nucleic acids and proteins

  • Protein functional diversity and the nature of the proteome
  • The functional importance of the four hierarchal levels of protein structure

Gene structure and regulation

  • the functional distinction between structural genes and regulatory genes

Structure and regulation of biochemical pathways

  • The role of enzymes as protein catalysts in biochemical pathways
  • The mode of action of enzymes including reversible and irreversible inhibition of their action

Unit 3 AOS2 - How do cells communicate?

Cellular signals

  • Apoptosis as a natural, regulatory process of programmed cell death, initiated after a cell receives a signal from inside (mitochondrial pathway) or from outside (death receptor pathway) the cell resulting in the removal of cells that are no longer needed or that may be a threat to an organism, mediated by enzymes (caspases) that cleave specific proteins in the cytoplasm or nucleus (details of specific cytoplasmic or nuclear proteins are not required)
  • Malfunctions in apoptosis that result in deviant cell behaviour leading to diseases including cancer.


This task has been designed to meet requirements for either of:

  • Unit 3 Outcome 1 SAC task
  • Unit 3 Outcome 2 SAC task

GTAC will provide more information in term 1 of 2020 to support teachers in delivery of either SAC task.


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