From cancer patient to cancer researcher
Chris Lucchesi was interested in studying cancer even before he was diagnosed with the disease in high school.
“It fascinates me,” Chris said of cancer. “It’s the self attacking the self.”
Chris is a fifth-year graduate student in Pharmacology, in the lab of Professor Ying Huang, MD PhD. He studies a tumor suppressor gene that has the potential to kill cancer cells. “It has therapeutic potential and clinical significance,” Chris said of his project.
The tumor suppressor gene presents a tough challenge for Chris and others studying the gene. It has been shown to suppress tumor activity in certain cancers, but a mutation in the gene has been found to be resistant to cancer-fighting drugs. The single somatic point mutant was discovered in lung carcinoma patient samples and may have clinical significance.
The summer before senior year in high school in northern California, Chris was diagnosed with an esthesioneuroblastoma -- a rare form of cancer that begins in the brain’s olfactory area. He spent his senior year of high school undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
During his doctoral studies at Upstate, Chris has focused on a gene linked to esophageal, breast, colon and lung cancers. “The project is at the very beginning stages,” he said. “It needs to go to an animal model (for testing). If I were a new student, I’d be interested in this project.”