Control of cell cycle & cancer

The control of the cell cycle is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Cyclins have a key role in this control. Oncogenes have the opposite effect and effectively remove the control of the cell cycle and the cells divides to form a tumor. This activity introduces students to these concepts without getting too complicated.

Lesson Description

Guiding Questions

What is the difference between the cell cycle and mitosis?

How is the cell cycle controlled?

Can the body stop cell division if something is wrong with the dividing cell?

Activity 1: Introduction to the control of the cell cycle and cancer

The cell cycle is normally controlled by proteins called cyclins and other chemicals.

At key stages the cell cycle will only continue when there is the correct level of cyclin.

Cancer is caused by the uncontrolled division of body cells.

Oncogenes prevent this normal control of the cell cycle and cause a cell to become cancerous.

Cancer cells divide continuously and grow into a tumor.

Watch this short video introduction and answer the questions below

  CancerQuest - animated introduction to cancer biology


  1. A normal cell will divide only when it receives a chemical signal. What is the name of the group of chemicals which make these signals?


  2. Cancers result from changes to DNA which affect specific genes. What things can cause mutations?


    Chemical mutagens

    Radiation from the sun

  3. What is the name of genes which are responsible for cells dividing even when there are no signals?


  4. What is "metastasis"

    The movement of tumour cells to neighbouring or distant parts of the body.

    Tumour cells break off from the primary tumour and move throughout the body to form tumours in other locations.

Activity 2: Understand the cell cycle using the flashcards and the worksheet.

Use the information from Activity 1 to complete the worksheet below and annotate a diagram of the cell cycle and tumour formation.

Cancer and cell cycle student worksheet

This is the student worksheet

Activity 3: Extension reading

For more information about cancer, the cell cycle and oncogenes see these web links.

Teachers notes

This is a complex area of biology but students only need to have a simple understanding of the key terms which can be found in the flashcard set.

The video puts some of these words into the context of cancer and the cell cycle diagram completes the story.

    There are some model answers for the diagram activity on this page, Cancer - cell cycle model answers

    The activity should take no more than one hour and some students may wish to:

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