Scientist Raps About Cancer Research

If this is how he handles press releases, his Ph.D. dissertation defense should be legendary.

It isn’t always easy for scientists to communicate with the public.

The problem is that scientists have to be as specific about their research as possible, which typically involves complicated-sounding names that go over the heads of anyone not trained in that field of study.

Nat Harris, a Ph.D. student from the University of Wollongong in Australia is hoping to change that by describing the cancer research he’s been doing for the last three years through rap. Check it out:

In order to make a new cancer drug that is better tolerated, Harris and his team are trying to find new ways to go after tumor cells. The problem is that cancer cells are just regular human cells that have begun to grow in an uncontrolled way. So, it's very hard to target those problematic cells without also harming healthy cells in the process.

"Current chemotherapy targets all fast dividing cells," Harris stated in a press release. "This is why people can lose their hair and get very nauseous, because the drugs attack fast-growing hair and gut cells as well as cancer cells."

Because cancer isn’t like a virus or bacteria, which is easier to target while ignoring healthy human cells, Harris and his colleagues need to look for differences on tumor cells that aren’t seen in normal cells.

They have been able to identify a particular receptor on the surface of the cancer cell that will allow them to do just that. Once identified, they just needed to find a way to bind to that receptor so they could kill the cell.

The drug has the potential to go after the tumor cells that cause a wide variety of cancer types, from skin to esophageal to ovarian. The team is now investigating whether or not it could be effective against prostate or breast cancer as well.

“The drug we are developing could be used as a superior treatment following surgery for cancer or as an alternative option for patients who are intolerant to conventional chemotherapy and/or radiation therapies,” Harris continued.

"It also opens the door to a more personalized approach in cancer treatment."

Learn more about the research here:

The road to drug development is a long one, and it can take 10-15 years to go from early research to approval for clinical use in patients. While it might be a while before this drug is used to save lives, hopefully Harris will continue to entertain the masses as he keeps the public abreast of the amazing work his lab is doing.

"Rap can get into the social consciousness of people so it's a good way to express your ideas and emotions or even science to people," Harris concluded in the release.

Images credited to: University of Wollongong

[H/T: ScienceAlert]