These teaching sequences are linked to the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Biology Study Design (2017-2021).

Sequence 1: CAR T cell immunotherapy

Teaching sequence for: VCE Biology Unit 3, Area of Study 2, Outcome 2

3 modules, 1-3 hours each

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Sequence 2: Cancer

Teaching sequence for: VCE Biology Unit 2, Area of Study 3, Outcome 3 and Unit 4, Area of study 2

3 modules, 1-3 hours each

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Introduction

Immunotherapy uses a patient’s own immune responses to fight cancer and is considered the fourth pillar of cancer treatment alongside surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The term immunotherapy encompasses a number of different treatment options, each with their own distinct ways in which they stimulate or restore a patient’s immune function.

The use of immunotherapy to treat cancer has been evolving rapidly over the last couple of decades. Research into cancer immunotherapy has focused on the design and development of drugs based on an understanding of cell biology and the body’s adaptive immune responses. Recently, the focus has moved towards the genetic modification of T cells, known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells, with an emphasis on improving the efficacy of CAR-T cells to detect and kill cancer cells. The Water and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) is at the forefront of research into CAR-T cell immunotherapy.

The following teaching resource uses the contemporary field of cancer immunotherapy to introduce the concepts of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses within the adaptive immune system. It facilitates student understanding of a number of cellular mechanisms, such as a malfunction of apoptosis (programmed cell death) that contribute to deviant cell behavior, leading to cancer.

Sequence Outline

The teaching resource is outlined in two sections:

  • Sequence 1: CAR T cell immunotherapy.
    • Module 1: What is Immunotherapy?
    • Module 2: CAR-T cell technology
    • Module 3: Adaptive Immune Responses
  • Sequence 2: Cancer.
    • Module 1: What is cancer?
    • Module 2: Cancer treatments
    • Module 3: Ethics of cancer treatments (yet to be developed)

Links to the Curriculum

The immunotherapy teacher resource is linked to the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) Biology Study Design (2017-2021). The resource focuses on key knowledge within Unit 3 (How do cells maintain life?).

In Area of Study 2: How do cells communicate? The key knowledge addressed within the unit is as follows:

  • Responding to antigens
    • the characteristics and roles of components of the adaptive (specific) immune response including the actions of B lymphocytes and their antibodies (including antibody structure) in humoral immunity, and the actions of T helper and T cytotoxic cells in cell-mediated immunity
  • 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
    • malfunctions in apoptosis that result in deviant cell behavior leading to diseases including cancer
  • Immunity
    • the use of monoclonal antibodies in treating cancer

References

Abbas, A Lichtman, A, Pillai, S. 2015, Cellular and Molecular Immunology, 8th edn, Elsevier Incorporated, Chatswood NSW.

Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Centre, University of Birmingham 2016, The story of Emily Whitehead - the girl who lived, retrieved 5 September 2016, <https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/cancer-immunotherapy/1/steps/76569>.

Magee M. 2014, Challenges to CAR T-cell therapy for Cancer, retrieved 20 September 2016, <http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Michael-S-Magee/2014/11/challenges-to-chimeric-antigen-receptor-car-t-cell-therapy-for-cancer/>.

Srivastava, S & Riddell, S 2015, ‘Engineering CAR-T cells: Design concepts’, Trends in Immunology , vol. 36, no. 8, pp. 494 – 502, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.it.2015.06.004

Rodriguez, V n.d. Using differentiated instruction to teach immunological concepts to a diverse group of learners, Southwest High School, retrieved 18 October 2016, <http://www.aai.org/education/summer_teachers/docs/archive/2011_rodriguez_victor_final.pdf>.

Unknown n.d., Figure 2: Antitumor effects mediated by CAR-engrafted T cells, retrieved 26 October 2016, < https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2010/956304/fig2/>.)

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