Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Davies Cancer Presentation

Saige Sunier
December 20, 2012
Core Biology 1 Honors/ C-Block, Ms. Davies

Current Event Report: Ms. Davies Cancer Presentation:

Ms. Davies graduated from Pelham High School; she continued to Sara Lawrence College where she studied marine biology. This summer she was invited to participate in a Research Program for Teachers at Columbia University, working at Irving Cancer Research Center. Because her father died from kidney cancer Davies was motivated to focus on cancer. Cancer is defined as uncontrolled cell growth. Davies worked with Dr. Ben Tycko, the head of the lab, Dr. Tamas Gonda, and Angelica Cullo, a college student. This team worked with the drug Dacogen (DAC) to try to turn off cancer causing genes. Methylation, or the introducing a methyl group (CH3) to the cytosine of adenine nucleotide in DNA, can turn off genes that cause cancer. This is called hypermethylation, tumor-suppressing genes that help prevent cancer, are turned off. DAC is supposed to remove methylation to help treat the disease. Using this drug, doctors have been able to treat certain kinds of blood disorders, but through this research the hope was to use it to cure pancreatic cancer. Using mice that were already given cancer the hope was to shrink the size of the tumors. The mice were sacrificed and their tumors were weighed compared to the tumors of a control group of cancerous mice that were injected with PBS, or salt water. The mice treated with DAC proved to have tumors that weighed less than the PBS mice. These results were very exciting, the drug worked; however, there was a lot more work to be done.  It still isn’t clear if this drug is harmful to humans, more research has to be done before it can be experimented on people. Questions were raised to be researches such as: where is the methylation happening? what genes are altered by methylation? To try and answer these questions more tests, using chemicals, were done. Davies, and her colleagues, started using two different techniques to try and find answers. These two techniques were immunofluorescence, which included staining antibodies, and using immunofluorescence, which uses fluorescent lights to show wavelengths.  The results from the research showed that a protein, DAZL, in the pancreas is connected to cancer and DAC increases these proteins and helps fight the cancer. All of their research helps increase the knowledge of the drug DAC and helps bring scientists closer to finding a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death, right behind heart disease; it affects everyone everywhere. Most people have either a friends or a family member that has died from, or gotten cancer. This disease has personally affected Ms. Davies. Two years ago, her father was taken by kidney cancer. This motivated her to join the researchers and help find a cure for the deadly mutation. When her father was diagnosed, Davies was very frustrated that she did not understand cancer very well. It is rarely taught in school, that is why, now that she is a teacher at Bronxville High School, she has been trying to get across a lesson in her biology classes. She hopes that this will help other people understand what is happening in the hard times that will arise. Cancer kills thousands of people every year. For a long time scientists have been trying to find a cure. There is no set way to destroy all cancer, fixes are specific to the kind you have. Carcinoma cancer is the most common; it grows in skin and tissue that line the organs. Sarcoma is the rarest and hardest kind of cancer to treat, it grown in bone and muscle tissue. There are other kinds of cancer, all of them hard but not impossible to treat. As said before, there is no specific all out cure to cancer, but the search continues. The research Davies done in the lab this summer helps bring the world closer to another solution to fight this awful disease.

Overall I think Ms. Davies did a great job presenting her breakthrough research. Cancer, and all of the research done to help cure it, is a very complicated subject filled with very complex ideas. When Ms. Davies went into the lab she did not no much about cancer, when she came out at the end of the summer she was an expert. She had an hour to try and relay all that she learned and succeeded through her research. This is a very difficult task. I had a hard time understanding things while they were being said, but when thinking back I understood the basic ideas. Davies did a great job teaching the audience about cancer and about the drug DAC. I found the first part about the cancerous mice and the drug DAC easy to understand. I feel like the other part of the research is harder to understand because it is more complex. The protein dyeing and fluorescent light part of the research was hard to understand. I feel like that part could have been explained better. Overall the presentation was very good and a lot of information was communicated.

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