Chicago teen Keven Stonewall is passionate about developing a vaccine which may cure colon cancer someday.
If his previous successes and numerous awards are any indication, the Ashburn native will forever be remembered as one of the scientists who actually made an impression on the medical world. In his senior year of high school, Keven was already working on a colon cancer vaccine at a Rush University lab and the results of his research were presented at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer’s national meeting in Washington, D.C. He discovered that an experimental vaccine aimed at preventing colon cancer in mice had an age-related flaw and gave people fighting this disease something to believe in. A vaccine which could work on the elderly is now being developed.
Carl Ruby, the Rush University professor who operated the lab where Keven did his research told DNAInfo that the 20-year-old “should be heralded” for helping to create more efficient colon cancer treatments which will impact the population that is most susceptible to this disease, namely the elderly. The teen has spent the last year at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he continues studying a colon cancer vaccine which may be eventually tested on humans, the publication noted.
His commitment to fighting and eradicating this disease came during his freshman year at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. The uncle of a good friend of his was diagnosed with colon cancer and Keven saw how the disease affected his friend, whose grades went down as his relative became more ill and died. Keven told the publication that he saw how colon cancer impacted his friend’s life and felt like he “needed to step up and do something about it.” Prior to his senior year, the Chicago teen started his research on a colon cancer vaccine while doing an internship at Rush. After reviewing research indicating that a chemotherapeutic agent could help destroy other kinds of cancer cells, he wanted to test whether the vaccine worked on both younger and older mice.
Keven used a high concentration of mitoxantrone [a prescription drug which treats certain kinds of cancer] and administered the vaccine to young and old mice. Then, he injected the mice that received the vaccine with aggressive colon cancer cells and measured responses. Three days after the mice got the vaccine, the young animals’ tumours were eliminated and they were even immune to colon cancer, while none of the older mice were protected, which led to tumour growth.
Keven’s research showed that older subjects need to be injected with another vaccine. Andrew Zloza, Rush assistant professor in the Immunology/Microbiology & Internal Medicine departments told DNAInfo Keven’s work suggests that “age may have to be a factor” when physicians choose certain drugs for patients of different ages. Although age is already taken into account for children versus adults, the second group may need to be separated into smaller groups by age.
Keven believes that, given the amount of data gathered so far, the research has the potential to make it into human trials and eventually cure colon cancer. However, the teen explained that this potential vaccine would have to go through years of clinical trials and testing to guarantee its effectiveness and safety.
The teen who may cure colon cancer someday wants to become an oncologist.