Haarini
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:22 pm
Occupation: Student

Science fair project: Cancer

Postby Haarini » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:10 pm

Hi Mr or Ms Science Expert,
Firstly, I would like to thank you for reading my post. My name is Haarini and I'm in grade 8. I am willing to participate in the York Region Science and Technology Fair. My topic for this year's project is going to be based on cancer and a possible cure for cancer. I did some research about a drug called dichloroacetate which was tested to cure gliomas and several types of brain tumors as well.I read many articles about how it works, but I'm not too sure if my interpretation is correct or not. In my understanding, cells highly depend on oxygen and use it as energy to function inside the mitochondria. However in the case of cancer, it grows in a much simpler way called glycolysis where it really just depends on glucose to grow and switches the mitochondria off. The mitochondria in the cell mainly takes care of the metabolism in the cell, but in a cancer cell, it can't since it is shut off. In my understanding, the dichloroacetate switches the mitochondria back on which has the ability to make the cells self-destruct (process of apoptosis) killing all of the cancer cells.I am just wondering if dichloroacetate was something that was already done as a science fair project before and if it was done for other types of cancer as well. Are there any tests done to discover if dichloroacetate actually works? I'm also curious to know if this is an expensive drug or if there is a low-cost drug that works similarly.

Thank you for your help and support!
Sincerely,
Haarini

SciB
Expert
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Joined: Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:00 am
Occupation: Retired molecular biologist, university researcher and teacher

Re: Science fair project: Cancer

Postby SciB » Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:49 pm

Hi Haarini and welcome to Scibuddies. It sounds like you have a well thought-out and exciting project in the works.

Dichloroacetate (DCA) is an inexpensive, relatively nontoxic small molecule that has been used to treat mitochondrial disorders for many years. The mitochondria are small bodies (organelles) within cells that perform a complex set of enzymatic reactions to produce adenosine triphosphate, ATP, the energy molecule of a cell.

The mitochondria of healthy cells produce ATP by using an efficient pathway called glucose oxidation while cancer cells utilize an alternative pathway called aerobic glycolysis. Mitochondria in cancer cells are still functioning--only not in the normal efficient way. When cells are treated with DCA it causes the influx of a small organic acid called pyruvate which stimulates glucose oxidation. In cancer cells this also triggers a form of programmed cell death called apoptosis. Killing cancer cells selectively is the goal of chemotherapy.

While DCA is not a cure for cancer, it is cheap and and not harmful when used correctly, and it can be used effectively in combination with anticancer drugs to kill tumor cells. I don't know if DCA has been used in a science fair project. In order to test DCA as an anticancer drug you would have to use cell culture to grow a human cancer cell line such as Hela or MCF-7 and add the DCA to the culture medium. This is a simple procedure for researchers working in a university lab but requires a BSL-2 facility that a high school may not have.

I don't want to overwhelm you with too much information but I hope I have helped you to understand the basics of this project better. Growing human tumor cell lines is routine but the methods take time to learn, require specialized equipment and you would need supervision to work in a university cancer research lab. Let us know if you have access to such a lab and people to train you, and can take the time to learn the techniques and perform the experiments. A project like this could take a couple of months to complete but would be well worth it.

Good luck!

Sybee

Haarini
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:22 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science fair project: Cancer

Postby Haarini » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:13 pm

Hello Ms. Sybee,
Thank you very much for giving me a more in-depth reasoning of how dichloroacetate works. I'm really interested in doing this project, but I do not have the resources to do this project especially since I'm only in grade 8. Additionally, I do not really have any contacts with university researchers making it difficult for me to do this project. Do you know anyone who can additionally help me with this project? On the bright side, I do have a lot of time to do this project since the science fair is in April of next year. Looking at the time span, I believe that I can study the different methods and procedures to do this project.

Thanks for your help and support!
Sincerely,
Haarini

maleencabe
Former Expert
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Apr 24, 2017 3:16 pm
Occupation: Teacher

Re: Science fair project: Cancer

Postby maleencabe » Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:32 am

Haarini wrote:Hello Ms. Sybee,
Thank you very much for giving me a more in-depth reasoning of how dichloroacetate works. I'm really interested in doing this project, but I do not have the resources to do this project especially since I'm only in grade 8. Additionally, I do not really have any contacts with university researchers making it difficult for me to do this project. Do you know anyone who can additionally help me with this project? On the bright side, I do have a lot of time to do this project since the science fair is in April of next year. Looking at the time span, I believe that I can study the different methods and procedures to do this project.

Thanks for your help and support!
Sincerely,
Haarini

Hi Haarini!

Your project is VERY interesting and I'm very impressed at the amount of literature research you've done so far! Large pat on the back for you! In terms of university researchers, you actually don't have to know anybody at a university. Thankfully, googling what universities are near you is all you really need to do. Once you find these websites to the universities near you, you can definitely find faculty members on the website that are involved in cancer research. Once you find these people, it's just a simple email asking them if they would be willing to discuss your project with you and if there would be any way for them to help you conduct this. Most university researchers are willing to help in that regard (I work at a university myself and know a ton of researchers that have taken on lab volunteers and given them their own independent project). Try that out and see how that will pan out for you!

Wishing you all the best!
Maleen Cabe
"The important thing is to never stop questioning." -- Albert Einstein

Haarini
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:22 pm
Occupation: Student

Re: Science fair project: Cancer

Postby Haarini » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:06 am

Hello!
Thank you for the advice! My only concern is if they would respond to my email because I am only in grade 8. However, I am willing to do it. Is there any way you can hook me up with a professor because I've already tried sending some emails to professors and I haven't heard back from them at all.
Thank you for your help and support!
Regards,
Haarini


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