Mitosis as an anti-cancer target

In the last decades “anti-mitotic” drugs (i.e: drugs that kill dividing cells) have emerged as a new and very promising strategy for the development of alternative anti-cancer treatments. The study of the different proteins and cellular structures that can be targeted by drugs to kill cells in mitosis -and therefore kill a tumour on its tracks- is a very active field of research.

This activity will allow students to consider the different alternatives for drug treatments. They will learn about the most common anti-mitotic drugs, their targets inside the cell and their mechanisms of action. The fact sheets also provide information about the use of the drugs in the clinic, and the advantages and disadvantages that their use presents.

The activity aims to add a new dimension to the more traditional (text-book style) study of mitosis in the classroom, by engaging the students in a very active field of biomedical research with practical applications in the clinic.

Anti-mitotic Drugs Fact Sheets (HOW TO KILL A MITOTIC CELL):
1- Students will be given a fact sheet (two-sided). We have found that this works well if a factsheet is shared by two students (or even a small group) to encourage discussion.

a) Consider the target of the drug and try to guess the effect it will have in mitosis.

b) Look at the information about the drug in the second page: what is the effect of the drug? How is it used as an anti-cancer agent? Does it present with side-effects? Why?

c) Group discussion: in turn, each group will talk briefly about the drug treatment studied: its effect, what it is used for and what are the main problems. Why do you think scientists keep looking for new targets and new anti-mitotic drugs?


Anti-mitotic Drugs QUIZ:

In each page you will find pictures showing the effect in mitotic cells of some of the drugs studied (numbered panels). Each number correspond to a different drug. Compare the treated cells (numbered panels) with normal untreated cells (control panels); try to guess which drug was used.

Download QUIZ:

These resources were developed for the Contemporary Science Conference for Teachers (National Science Learning Centre, York 2011). We would like to thank Dr Jeremy Airey for his advice.