Baylor undergrad’s research seeks to improve a natural cancer-fighter
For centuries, South African natives have used parts of the African bush willow tree in natural medicines, treating everything from headaches to dysentery. More recently, an Arizona State researcher has studied its potential for fighting cancer.
It might sound presumptuous, but a Baylor undergraduate student has been hard at work building on Arizona State’s work. Senior Cassie Robertson, a Baylor Business Fellow and pre-med (biology) major from North Texas, has studied the tree’s natural tumor-inhibiting compounds, called combretastatins, under the advisement of Dr. Kevin Pinney, a professor of chemistry in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.
“The [combretastatin's] molecule inhibits tumor growth by attaching to the tumor and preventing blood from reaching it, inherently stopping cell division,” explains Robertson. “Tumors need to be able to form their own blood vessels quickly in order to sustain growth, so by stopping blood flow, the tumor dies from starvation of nutrients.”
With graduation impending, Robertson says she hopes another student will be able to continue her research. Robertson plans to eventually spend her career in the medical field, and says the research opportunities she’s had at Baylor have been priceless.
“Although this project has been stressful at times,” she says, “it is great to see all of the pieces come together and to see my hard work throughout college pay off in my senior year.”
Sic ’em, Cassie!
[For more on Robertson's work and other research being conducted at Baylor, check out "Research Tracks," a blog from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.]