Student Adventures Around The World

Michael E., Houston

Map of Texas - Houston

Michael is assisting with medical research at the Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research in Houston, Texas. The sophomore chemistry and psychology major hopes to attend medical school after graduating from SMU. Michael is a Presidentís Scholar at SMU. The Presidentís Scholarship is the highest academic merit scholarship that SMU awards upon entering the university.

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July 18, 2006

I've been spending most of my time working on a presentation on isolated hyperthermic perfusion , which is an extremely effective treatment for melanoma and other cancers of the extremities. In essence, the appendage (arms and legs) is tourniqueted, and catheters are inserted into the main artery and vein in the selected limb. The catheters are then hooked up to a heart/lung machine, which pumps blood through the appendage like a heart would.

This setup allows for two things: the blood can be heated, and a chemotherapy drug can be added to the blood and it will not travel throughout the rest of the body. There are a multitude of advantages to keeping the limb a closed-system. First, toxicity from a chemo drug will not be seen, because after the treatment is complete, the old blood and drug mixture is flushed from the system, and fresh blood is given to the patient. Secondly, the heat added kills cancer cells much more readily than normal cells, and also stimulates an immune response that travels throughout the body.

This immune response prevents metastasis of the cancer, which is not seen with normal chemotherapy, for it just kills the cancer that is targeted initially. Immunocytes are stimulated across the board when heat is added.

Aside from the project, I have viewed several surgeries, and been on rounds with an oncologist on several occasions. These instances have been the highlight of my internship, for I want to be a physician someday, and the subject matter interests me even more than my cancer studies.

June 1, 2006

I've been working a lot and life has been hectic with other activities as well. I am an intern at the Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research. It is a competitive internship that I had been chosen for in high school, and enjoyed immensely. I knew that I would learn a lot in the medical field, and I hope to attend medical school after graduating from SMU. I also looked forward to seeing the friends I had made in the past working at the lab. In addition to the research side of things, I also go on rounds with different physicians each week, and observe different surgeries performed by those same doctors.

Applying for the internship
A transcript is required for your application. Aside from basic information, a student is asked to write an essay on why they are applying, along with any past research or applicable jobs. Applicants are then asked to interview.

A day in the life of a student intern
A lot is expected of a student intern. Aside from using common sense, sterile technique is taught and expected throughout your time as a researcher, whether you're placed in tissue culture, tumor injection, chemo, or any of the other sections of the Stehlin lab. The basic processes used in the research are taught, and then you do it on your own (although close interaction with a PhD mentor is also common). Personally, I am researching ways around some of the difficulties we run into when chemotherapy drugs are used for humans as opposed to nude mice, which mainly have to do with physiological and anatomical differences that hinder the drug's effectiveness in humans. Before a drug can move into clinical trial, the FDA needs to know not only that a drug works, but also HOW it works. That's my job.