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Biology major Evan Adler ’02 is studying the immunological aspects of fighting cancer for his senior honors thesis. The yearlong project is to test a possible mechanism that tumor cells may use to evade the immune system.

At Lafayette, students are encouraged to explore a topic of interest in a particular major or disciplinary program. Lafayette recognizes superior academic work by awarding honors for outstanding performance in writing a senior thesis or conducting senior research.

“The tumor cell line normally produces a protein called RANTES, which we believe is desensitizing chemokine receptors inhibiting T-cell migration to a tumor,” explains Adler, who is working with Robert Kurt, assistant professor of biology. “My thesis advisor has done previous work showing that T-cells overexposed to chemokines have reduced ability to migrate. Dr. Kurt and I decided to try and confirm that the poor migration was attributed to the over-expression of chemokines.”

Adler is creating a tumor cell that does not produce RANTES.

“If RANTES is bad for the immune system, then tumor cells that do not produce RANTES should elicit a good immune response,” explains Kurt. “We do not know what will happen until the project is complete, but the results will be published however they turn out.”

Adler began working on the project with Kurt through the EXCEL Scholars program, in which students serve as research assistants to faculty while earning a stipend. “Although using the laboratory equipment and interacting with faculty are important experiences at Lafayette, a thesis gives students an opportunity to explore a research project more independently and in greater depth than with independent study projects,” says Kurt.

Making cancer cell clones and testing them is giving Adler a chance to understand and apply what he’s learned in the classroom. “Evan is learning to act and think more independently during this procedure,” says Kurt. “You cannot learn how to ask or answer scientifically relevant questions in a classroom or from reading a textbook. These abilities are only learned through hands-on laboratory experiences. If students want to learn about the immunological aspects of fighting cancer, they really need to spend some time in my lab.”

Last summer Adler served an internship with an oncologist at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey. He has made dean’s list and is a member of the varsity soccer team. He was a residence advisor for two years and now serves as an off-campus liaison.

Categorized in: Academic News