Local Students Killing Cancer in the Classroom


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Inside the Trustee Science Center at Drury University, students are taking part in a pretty unbelievable research project.

They’re growing colon, bone and blood cancers.

And then, they’re killing it.

Mark Wood is Professor of Chemistry at Drury University, “What gets me, is they do it with a microwave. Like a microwave you have in your home. So, it’s kinda remarkable.”

Dhruv Sitapara is a junior, pre-med student, who is studying biochemistry at Drury.

Sitapara says, “We have synthesized certain compounds that are known to have anti-cancer properties.”

The tricky part is they’re killing the cancer without killing the host.

Sitapara says, “It’s just fascinating for a science student, like me, to work on a project like this. Cause right now, they are killing the cells. We don’t know the how. We just know they are killing them. So, we want a compound that basically tells the cells to kill themselves.”

He says understanding the mechanism of how the drug operates is really important.

Sitapara says, “Let’s say,  if we take a very toxic compound, like cyanide or something, we might be able to kill the cancer cells. But, it’s not helpful if it kills you too in the process. We are just trying to do research and tell the scientific community– “hey, there’s never been scientific research done on these compounds and this is what we’ve found.”

It’s all part of the ultimate goal – to get rid of cancer for good.

And students like Sitapara are hoping this research can help, even in the slightest.

Sitapara says, “Some of the things we do,  they are not done anywhere else.  And, some of the compounds we have,  are the only ones in the whole world.”

Sitapara is one of 17 students taking part in this specific project.

It’s been going on for two years now.

And, it’s all thanks to a scholarship.

Sitapara will be presenting their findings at a national conference this April. 

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