Undergraduate Cancer Research Center
Students at the Anderson University Center for Cancer Research work with advanced equipment and skilled researchers to study cancer treatments and causes, all with a focus on community outreach and education.
The center's studies have received recognition and support from South Carolina's scientific community. Research by student Georgia Harpe on the power of raspberries to kill breast cancer cells won top honors at the South Carolina Academy of Science's annual meeting in 2013. Two other students, Meaghan Standridge and Tori Bower, won a grant from the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities to research BRCA1 gene mutations in 2012. BRCA1 is a human gene associated with increased risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer.
Research from the Center has been published in the Journal of the South Carolina Academy of Science and presented at scientific conferences in South Carolina. In addition, students who have worked at the cancer center have become physicians and continued research careers. A recent student is attending The Medical University of South Carolina thanks in part to his research on breast cancer conducted at AU's cancer center.
Center Director and Professor of Biology Dr. Diana Ivankovic, herself a breast cancer survivor, has led cancer research for years at AU. In 2011 the center's opening gave Dr. Ivankovic a dedicated space to lead the work. The cancer center space, donated by AnMed Health Medical Center, is less than a mile from AU's main campus. Dr. Ivankovic is joined by Assistant Director Dr. Andy Norris, a biochemist, and AU adjunct professor Dr. Donna Weinbrenner, a microbiologist.
The cancer research team
Four students and four student volunteers join the faculty in cancer research each semester. The center typically works on four main projects at a time. Students work with fruit and plant extracts to see how well they fight different forms of cancer—pancreatic, stomach, or nerve, for example. The most notable current project involves a plant extract harvested from the Peruvian Amazon jungle. Locals in the region said the extract is useful for fighting stomach cancer, which raised Dr. Ivankovic's interest. The extract has since demonstrated powerful anticarcinogenic effects on stomach cancer cells and is now being tested on other types of cancer.
Students at the center work with state-of-the-art equipment such as a tissue culture hood, which creates the sterile environment needed to work with cancer cells, an ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) plate reader, which helps take readings and collect data, a fluorescent microscope, centrifuges, a minus 80 degrees Celsius freezer (used for storing cells), incubators, and an inverted microscope.
Students join in research that's underway, and they can make suggestions and alter the research based on new studies, publications, and findings. Working in the lab can fulfill senior research credit, which is required for all biology and biochemistry majors at AU.
Apply to be a Cancer Scholar
Students can also apply to be a Cancer Scholar by contacting Dr. Ivankovic. Four selected students work at the center as Cancer Scholars and receive school credit for their work. Cancer Scholar Gregory Barrett will soon start graduate work in preclinical science—a foundation for medicine and biomedical research—at Mercer University's School of Medicine in Georgia. At the cancer center Barrett studied pokeweed, a plant native to the southeastern United States that has been used in folk medicine for hundreds of years. He researched how cancer cells responded to the plant's presence.
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