W&J junior researching prostate cancer treatment

Created: June 28, 2018
Last Updated: January 13, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (June 28, 2018)—A Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) biochemistry major is spending his summer delving into cancer research.

Ben Freedman ’20 is studying alongside Dr. Simon Hayward, the director of cancer biology at Northshore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill.

“The subject of my research focuses on validating hormone-regulated genes in carcinoma-associated fibroblast (CAF) cells. While CAF cells themselves do not become cancerous, they are members of and influence the microenvironment with cancer cells. We are focused in the area of prostate cancer, where CAF cells have been shown to drive the formation of prostate tumors,” Ben said.

Ben, who is the son of two 1988 W&J grads, connected with Dr. Hayward through his father, who is a physician in the same heath system. Ben’s experience is being funded through W&J’s Merck Internships for Excellence in Science Program, which provides support for students who are interning in science fields.

Ben chose to pursue research in prostate cancer after taking a cell biology course with W&J Professor of Biology Candy DeBerry, Ph.D.

“I was fascinated by the field of cell and cancer biology,” he said. “I have always found learning about cancer extremely interesting and I wanted to study cancer on a more in-depth level, particularly in a research setting.”

Prostate cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in men, and patients continue to have a poor five-year survival rate. As Dr. Hayward’s lab studies the tumor environment, they hope to gain insights about the progression of advanced stages of prostate cancer as well as other common forms of cancer.

Thanks to his experiences at W&J, Ben felt prepared for this lab internship, and has been able to learn a lot more to build upon the foundation that his courses at the College have given him—including a three-and-a-half-week medical shadowing experience in January with Dr. Howard Goldberg of Washington ENT, during which Ben observed surgeries for various head and neck cancers.

“Because W&J encourages its students to immerse themselves in experiences outside of the classroom, I have been able to undergo numerous research and internship endeavors,” he said. “I believe that the internship and research projects that I have experienced could only have transpired at a small, liberal arts college that allows for special connections to be made. In my opinion, the internship and research projects that I’ve participated in at W&J are experiences that you can’t get elsewhere and part of what makes W&J such a special place.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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