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Moving Forward: Through the microscope

Conquest - Fall 2012

Interns see their cancer up close for the first time

Related story:
Moving Forward: Nurses who know

By Sara Farris

While their peers were poolside soaking up the summer, Patrick Ede and Mary Blake donned lab coats and spent their days researching at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital (CCH).

For them, it was an opportunity to learn more about the disease they fought as children — leukemia.

A ‘thumbs up’ to a possible research career

Patrick Ede and Mary Blake
Photo: Adolfo Chavez III

Ede was diagnosed in November 2002 at the age of 11 with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). When doctors found his disease was more aggressive than originally thought, they sent him to CCH for a bone marrow transplant.

Now 21, Ede is cancer-free and a senior, majoring in biomedical sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station. His original plan was to become a physician assistant, but his summer in the lab opened his eyes to research opportunities instead.

“I’m an analytical person, so research fits my personality,” Ede says. “I face some challenges with quick processing as a result of treatment, but research allows me to think things out thoroughly.”

While interning under Dean Lee, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor at CCH, Ede studied AML transplant patient cells to see how potent the donor cells were against the cancer.

“Dr. Lee is what every physician should be,” Ede reports. “He cares about the people he serves, and his research stems from there.”

As the young Aggie wraps up his final year at Texas A&M, he will continue to determine the next steps in his career. His current focus, though, is saving up for the coveted Aggie ring in time for graduation.

Future oncologist learns the importance of research

In the same year Ede was diagnosed, Blake learned that she had the most common kind of cancer in children, acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). At age 11, she endured more than two years of chemotherapy at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

Blake is also a senior, majoring in biomedical sciences while attending Sacramento State University. She spent the summer as part of the CPRIT (Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas) Summer Undergraduate Research program, working under Joya Chandra, Ph.D., associate professor at CCH.

This summer was Blake’s first experience researching cancer cells, and she says what she learned in the lab will help as she pursues a career as a pediatric oncologist.

“Having this experience and being a survivor has taught me what both sides of the field look like. It gave me perspective on researchers’ needs as they collaborate with those working in the clinic.”

Once Blake finishes medical school, she hopes to fulfill one of her life’s dreams, based on her years of attending and serving as a counselor at a summer camp for cancer patients.

“My goal is to open up a ropes course for families fighting cancer,” she says. “It’s something I loved doing as a patient, and I want to give that opportunity to others.”

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