Health Team

Teen studies cancer research at summer program

The Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Durham VA Medical Center offer the summer internship program, “Summer on the Edge.”

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DURHAM, N.C. — While some students may spend their summer vacations at the beach, Melanie Masoud is interning at a cancer research lab.

The Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Durham VA Medical Center offer Summer on the Edge Program, where high school students work in Cancer Center laboratories, attend lectures and tour Cancer Center and Medical Center facilities, according to the Cancer Center Web site.

Out of 100 applicants, the program selects the top 16 young researchers from across the state to participate.

Masoud, 17, hopes the program will be the beginning of her cancer fighting career.

When Masoud applied for the six-week program she didn’t have research experience to boast so she focused her essay on her desire to save people from cancer.

“I've always been interested in cancer, because my aunt died of cancer,” Masoud said.

Masoud’s aunt died of breast cancer about six years ago.

Duke Cancer Researcher Dr. Christina Augustine is helping Masoud and others learn the basics of cell research - specifically, melanoma cancer cells.

“She keeps asking questions and wants to understand it and that's what makes her unique,” Augustine said.

Before the internship, Masoud wasn't sure how to prepare herself to reach her goals.

”It's helped me, like zero into what I really want to study more,” Masoud said.

With four walls, no windows and a mind focused on the miniature world of cellular activity, most students Masoud’s age might decide cancer research isn't their thing, but it has lit a spark in the teen.

“What you’re doing here could save someone’s life out there,” Masoud said.

Throughout the process Masoud has gotten the chance to witness the surgical removal of a tumor from a patient's pancreas. She has also seen doctors work with cancer patients and their families.

At the end of the program the interns present projects. Masoud’s project is on ADH-1 and chemotherapy as a combination therapy for melanoma.