Posted: April 2, 2020

A Family in Need: Internet-Enhanced Case Study on Cancer Genetics


This problem-based learning case was designed for students to learn about several innovative medical applications of molecular biology. Students assume the role of a second-year medical student assigned to work with a pediatric oncologist who has just biopsied a tumor-like growth in the adrenal gland of her 17-year-old patient, Lee F. After taking Lee's family history and performing a pedigree analysis, students review clinical and genetic characteristics of several syndromes associated with adrenal cancer. Students then explore various diagnostic and biomedical research techniques such as PCR, DNA sequencing, and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. The case concludes with a consideration of how to treat Lee's condition with the help of gene cloning and the potential of gene therapy. Although originally written for an upper-level college genetics course, the case could also be adapted for an introductory molecular/cellular biology course, a non-majors biology course, or a professional school medical genetics course. The case has two versions: an "in-class version" and an "Internet version." This is the Internet-enhanced version that requires that students work more independently as they use various websites and databases to discover key pieces of information for the case.


Janet A. De Souza-Hart, PhD, MCPHS University

Learner Audience

Undergraduate Medical Education (UME)


Systems Based Practice

Resource Type(s)

Distance Learning - Asynchronous

Instructional Method(s)

Self-Directed Learning


Pre-health, uScience, Genetics, rDNA, Sequencing