Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
This summer I was very fortunate to be able to work in Dr. Priscilla Brasianos’s brain metastasis research lab at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Brain metastasis is cancer that has originated elsewhere in the body but spreads to the brain, penetrating the blood-brain barrier. In the lab we compile a cohort of patient samples from many different primary cancer types, such as lung, breast or skin cancer, among others. These samples include anything from blood to cerebrospinal fluid to fresh tissue. From these samples we are able to obtain DNA, RNA and protein through a series of protocols that I performed daily. Once we have reached the molecular level of these samples, the lab is then able to observe and look for mutations, such as duplications or deletions. With a sense of what is happening on the molecular level, the next step is to test possible treatments to probe what may be causing these mutations.
In the lab there are several ongoing projects that I took part in. On a broader scale, I was able to help with our 10-417 clinical trial by processing samples from all different histologies down to the molecular level to have for future use. On a more specific level, one of the projects I worked on involved ERK inhibitor research, which was probing the effectiveness of combination therapies and its effect on immune checkpoint inhibitors. The ERK pathway, in short, is responsible for cell proliferation, differentiation and cell death, which are hallmarks of cancer. Specifically, what I was able to do was help harvest tumors from mice at different timepoints to study cancer progression, or lack thereof, and then perform pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic analysis to determine if there was evidence of drug activity reaching the brain.
This work has been so cool and has provided me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the brightest minds as well as participate in groundbreaking research. I feel so fortunate to have learned so many lab techniques as well as the reasons behind each one and how to analyze our results. I could not have asked for better teachers who truly cared about my learning.
This internship has truly helped me in all aspects of my life. I have learned from amazing scientists as well as from amazing people. I have learned so much not only in the lab but about a career in medicine. Listening to people who have gone through—and who are currently going through—the process is truly invaluable. I feel nervous but excited for the road that lies ahead, and now more than ever I am confident and ready to pursue medicine. Finally, I want to thank the Kraft Family and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this all possible. I am forever grateful and I cannot thank everyone enough. I feel so lucky.