he treatment for cancer can sometimes be as devastating — and even as fatal — as the disease itself. For Andrew DePass `21, a biology major enrolled in Quinnipiac’s pre-med track, that’s unacceptable.
DePass spent last summer conducting research at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He worked alongside immunologists studying ways to enhance T cell immunity in cancer patients following chemotherapy and radiation. The purpose of their research was to limit patients’ susceptibility to relapse and opportunistic infection.
“Our goal was to increase T cell regeneration,” DePass said, referring to the T lymphocyte cells in the body that help fight infection and cancer.
DePass and other researchers found an increase in agents negatively impacting T cell replication within the thymus, where the body’s T cells are produced. The researchers also saw a depletion in catalase, an enzyme crucial for the creation of T cells.
“It’s generally the same problems with age-related atrophy as with cancer treatment atrophy,” DePass said.
DePass and his colleagues created a series of several antioxidative treatments to be delivered in the thymus, including one that supplemented the deficiency of catalase. A study on lab mice showed that mice given treatments maintained a higher T cell count than those that did not.
“It didn’t spur regrowth, so our ultimate goal wasn’t reached, but more research needs to be done,” DePass said.
When he returned to Quinnipiac, DePass presented his findings at the Quinnipiac Science Technology and Engineering Program (QSTEP). He credits QSTEP and faculty in Quinnipiac’s Department of Biology for their persistent encouragement and feedback.