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One of many minds working toward a cure for cancer is senior biology major Kei Ouchi of West Covina, Calif., a graduate of New Hampton School, New Hampton, N.H. His independent study this fall focuses on a chemotherapy drug called cis-platinum.

Under the direction of Shyamal K. Majumdar, Gideon R. Jr. and Alice L. Kreider Professor of Biology, Ouchi is examining the effect of the drug on the p53 tumor suppressor gene. He says the gene is found in both cancerous and normal cells, but when it is mutated, a tumor will begin to grow.

“We’re trying to see, in mutated and nonmutated genes, if there is any effect by the drug on DNA,” Ouchi says.

The method of studying cis-platinum is called polymerace chain reaction (PCR) in situ hybridization. Ouchi says it involves amplifying the DNA inside the tissue to check if it’s mutated, then determining the drug’s impact.

The student says the drug would work by forming a linkage between adjacent nucleotides on the DNA, inactivating it. He has grown cells and is doing the experiment on slides, he says.

“P53 is quite big, with four parts to it,” Ouchi says. “I have four sets of probes and I’m on my second probe. If I did all four at once, I wouldn’t know which region something occurred in.”

He says the experiment has been laborious. He is required to take action on it every five minutes during a four-hour period for each of three days, placing his work in an incubator overnight. But the experiment’s demanding nature has not discouraged Ouchi in his plan to do pharmaceutical research for a couple of years after graduation and then go on to medical school.

“This is how they do research as well,” he says of drug companies and medical research labs.

Ouchi hopes to present his research on cis-platinum at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science next spring. At last year’s Pennsylvania Academy conference he spoke on a research project he had undertaken with Majumdar entitled “Cytotoxic Evaluation of Raloxifene on Cultured Cancer Cells.” And at the 14th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research last April he presented his research on “Mindful Interpersonal Communication and the Effective Learning Process in Undergraduate Education” under the direction of Yoshihiko Ariizumi, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures.

Ouchi says he has benefited from attending Lafayette because the small classes and labs have provided “real hands-on teaching in the laboratory. I have learned techniques I could not have learned in bigger schools because the faculty here take time to give personal attention.

“Lafayette provides an excellent environment for students to work very closely with the professors,” he continues. “You get to know the professors as you take classes, and when you’re ready to do research, you get the opportunity to work with professors who have the same interests.”

Categorized in: Academic News