At the seventh annual seminar for high school students and teachers, investigators discuss how cutting-edge biomedical research may ultimately contribute to better treatments for cancer patients.
Since 2006, high school students and teachers from the New York City area have attended Memorial Sloan Kettering’s annual Major Trends in Modern Cancer Research seminar to learn about cutting-edge biomedical science and to engage with leading investigators. The program was designed to foster enthusiasm for science and medicine and to encourage young adults to pursue careers in those areas.
The most recent seminar, in late 2012, was the first to be presented not only at Memorial Sloan Kettering but as a live webcast, which was watched by more than 200 viewers from around the nation and the world.
Learn more about the presentations from the 2012 seminar, which are also available to watch on our website.
Signaling Cancer Cells
Memorial Sloan Kettering President and CEO Craig B. Thompson discusses how cancer cells grow and spread, and also explains the link between cell growth and metabolism.
While showing photos of an experiment tracking how mold grows and spreads on a piece of bread, Dr. Thompson says that the process could be used to illustrate how cancer grows and spreads in the body.
He notes that, as with mold spores, cancer cells need signals that tell them when to divide and multiply. In order to divide, cells must be “instructed by other cells based on need,” he says.
He also discusses the link between excess sugar in the diet and cancer, a focus of his laboratory research. He explains that sugar supplies nutrients that tell the cells to divide, “and then you’re off to the races of initiating the formation of a human cancer.”
Neuropathologist and physician-scientist Jason T. Huse is focused on the area of personalized medicine — how it can improve the care of people with cancer and the role that pathology plays in finding the best treatment for each patient.
Dr. Huse, a specialist in pathology and brain tumors, notes that care is shifting away from the treatment of patients with “rough tools” such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Thanks to developments in technology, he says, doctors are able to personalize “treatment strategies with targeted agents that are directed specifically to the molecular abnormalities that are driving specific tumors.”
Immunologist Morgan Huse, who is Jason’s identical twin brother, explains how a T cell — a type of white blood cell — fights infections and how it can be harnessed to destroy cancer as well.
“T cells kill target cells using a cocktail of really nasty, toxic proteins,” Morgan Huse says. The goal of scientists is to direct that response exactly where it is needed.
In studying T cells, researchers aim to harness the natural ability of T cells to use orientation and directionality — essentially, the sense of where they are — to aim their responses at the proper target.