Could NC Middle School Students Be the Key to Finding a Cure for Mesothelioma?
Biotechnology is a complex science based on biology that uses a person’s genetic makeup to develop pharmaceuticals to treat and combat serious diseases. Many people believe that the key to finding a cure for debilitating and rare diseases, such as mesothelioma, AIDS and Parkinson’s, lies in biotechnology.
Biotech companies are constantly recruiting young, enthusiastic researchers in the hopes that they will come up with the latest breakthrough. Now, one North Carolina town is exposing middle school students to the biotechnology field in hopes that they will become interested in the science and will consider a career in the industry.
Students at the newly opened Rolesville Middle School in Rolesville, NC, have the opportunity to take biotechnology courses. According to an article in the News & Observer, the students can take hands-on laboratory classes and will get research experience, including performing electrophoresis, a process for separating molecules. The school’s principal hopes the courses will “encourage them to go into biotechnology when they’re older.”
The principal of the new school, Dhedra Lassiter, is a former science teacher who “jumped” at the opportunity to host the biotechnology curriculum. “They’ll be taking classes and learning applications that the kids can see themselves doing in those fields,” she said.
One benefit of biotechnology is the move towards personalized medicine. Through identifying specific biomarkers in mesothelioma patients, for example, therapeutics can be developed that target the unique characteristics of the disease. Personalized care targeted to a patient’s unique mesothelioma characteristics optimizes the potential for success of the treatment and offers treatment options that may not otherwise have been considered.
In a breakthrough in personalized treatment last year, Xalkori, known generically as crizotinib, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with a companion diagnostic test to treat certain patients with late-stage, non-small cell lung cancers, and potentially mesothelioma patients. The treatment is directed towards cancer patients who express the abnormal ALK gene or biomarker.
Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization believes “drugs approved with companion diagnostic tests are the next wave of medicine and will significantly improve patient outcomes.”
Researchers in the area of genetics and biotechnology are making advances in finding new and effective treatments for mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer; however, more work is needed to find a cure. Close to 3,000 Americans are diagnosed with the incurable cancer each year. Perhaps some of the young North Carolina students will be intrigued by biotechnology, and will one day find the cure for mesothelioma.