The Return to Investigation

One year after graduating from the Ridgefield High School Science Research Program and now having completed college-level introductory Biology, Chemistry, and Math, I am facing a year that could be the polar opposite of the one prior. After holding on to my questions and getting an "I'll get back to you on that" from professors, I finally have the opportunity to launch an investigation. My curiosity can be quenched better than the Wikipedia search under my desk can do. Under the guidance of Dr. Robert Kurt, I will be continuing to research cancer at the college level.

In high school, I chose to research small molecule inhibitors for the treatment of cancer because I thought they were this decade's solution to making chemotherapy just a little bit safer. When asked about next decade's, I would reference immunotherapy. Using the tools your own body gives you to target foreign invaders to attack disease developed internally is simply logical.

Dr. Kurt is a professor of immunology and his research focuses on the involvement of the immune system in cancer. As I read publications from this field in preparation for the semester ahead, I get a sneak preview at the complexity of the world I'm about to explore.

Angela Duckworth says in her 2016 book Grit, "For the beginner, novelty is anything that hasn't been encountered before. For the expert, novelty is nuance." I'm no expert, but the novelty of the immune system in cancer research, to me, is a new approach to the same problem. While it may seem similar, this is not a continuation of my previous work. This is a new project, one that will broaden my skills by weaving together the old and the new experiences and approaches.

To quote Duckworth again, "Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare." Stick with what you enjoy and good things will come.

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A Cure For Cancer is Not My Goal? (Book Preview)

biology-316571_1280“My goal was never, and never will be to ‘cure cancer,’ but rather it is to treat cancer with less harmful side effects. Enhancing the lives of suffering patients is more than what I would ever want to accomplish. Also, I do not believe there ever will be one single cure for cancer. I am confident that there will be major improvements in the future to make curing cancer in certain individuals much easier, but I do not think a ‘cure’ exists beyond dreams.” -Preview of Innovation, the Key to Hope

With over 200 types of cancer, I can promise I will not be the magician that creates a “wonder-drug” that can cure all cancers, but what I can ensure is that I am devoted to improving the lives of others. While I am in the early stages of research, I know that specific molecule inhibitor drugs have a possibility to treat cancer with fewer side effects than typical cytotoxic chemotherapy. My research  project revolves around enhancing the quality of life for cancer patients in the future, anytime before the magic cure-all potion is invented in 2500.

Jokes aside, a cure would be amazing, but thinking small is key. One protein may control the fate of an entire person. A tiny chain of amino acids in a cluster of cells can kill. The precise mechanisms to target these are the innovative ideas of tomorrow.

Thanks,

Jennifer

The Past is in the Past

The infamous words “you have cancer” have been discussed across the globe with the same sorrowful response since the first time those words were ever spoken. However, some may find that while the cancer is destroying and invading their body, the treatment may actually be causing the most intense suffering. While often for cancer treatments, one must get worse before they get better, the same outlook has been given to cancer treatment for years. There are new treatments in the works that have the ability to diminish side effects from cancer treatments and there has never been a better time to seek such a solution.

While treatments like the ones I’m researching will not be options for most people for years, even understanding that other options exist can improve the difficult experience of suffering with cancer. Not only will these treatments enhance cancer treatment in the future, but they also allow patients to look past the present with hope for the future of medicine. As endless stories of patients’ tragedies fill the media, it may often be hard to see past the pain. While everyday is painful, just knowing there are options and that you are receiving the best possible treatment for your condition is enough to keep a person cheerful and determined to “win the fight”

These ideas and inventions are what fuel progress to a more successful cancer treatment and to happier lives. Subscribe to this blog to receive email updates on the first and third Friday of each month as I continue to describe how I am revising my book and preparing to publish it by April 2015. Also, please share blog posts with other survivors, caregivers, researchers or anyone you think would enjoy.

Thanks,

Jennifer