Sequence 2: Cancer (target cells) Module 3:

Ethics of cancer treatment

The third module within Sequence 2 focuses on identifying the ethical issues around the design and testing of contemporary cancer treatments. It is possible that this module could take 3 hours of class time.


VCE Biology (2017-2021)

Unit 4, Area of Study 2, Outcome 2, VCE Biology Study Design

Key knowledge

Biological knowledge and society


3 hours

Student learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students will:

  • Identify the ethical issues around cancer drug design and delivery
  • Analyse the interrelationship between scientific knowledge and its application in society
  • Understand the social and ethical implications and issues surrounding CAR T-cell cancer treatments

Teacher background information

Additional introductory resources


Frameworks for Ethical analysis


Ethical dilemmas in fighting infection

Note: this process is for some of the stories that the particular web site has focused on. The same process/concept could be used for the discussion of social and ethical implications around T cell therapy and other immunotherapies. Issues such as:

  • Unknown side effects
  • Access to clinical trials

Thought: Fast-tracking therapies based on a small (but high percentage) of success rates.

Question: CAR T-cell therapy is used for patients with end-stage cancer where other available treatments have failed. If CAR T-cell therapy successfully ensures remission in a number of patients, why do we need so many clinical trials? Why can’t the treatment be available to everyone?


TES: Monoclonal Antibodies lesson

Asks students to investigate the ethics of the use of animals in creating monoclonal antibodies, and the risks to humans in clinical trials of cancer treatments. Includes worksheets, presentation and a range of questions pertaining to ethics.


TES Australia: Herceptin the story of a new medicine

A powerpoint presentation that provides an outline on how the monoclonal antibody Herceptin is developed using animals. Can be used as a case study to discuss the ethics of cancer research.


Teaching sequence

Activity 3.1

Debate, write a letter to the editor or role play the following issue:
Identify the ethical issues around cancer drug design and delivery.

Back to top


Thanks to the following for contributing to the development of these sequences:

Special thanks to Ian Bentley and Mary Vamvakas