Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award

2020

Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project

Department

Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Drs. Karen Haberman & Kristin Latham-Scott

Honors Program Director

Dr. Gavin Keulks

Abstract

Cancer is a problem that has plagued humans our entire existence, and with that, has come the quest for a cure. Over many years of research we have discovered that the cure wasn’t easy to find and that cancer was a far more complicated disease than originally expected. Cancer is a disease characterized by uncontrolled cell growth, that begins with genetic mutations. With advances in science we came to understand our genetics and then we found some potential causes for cancer, in our genes. It is hoped that if we can reverse the faulty genetic mutations that cause cancer, we may be able to cure it. The mutations occur in two groups of genes, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes, and the latter is the focus of this paper. Tumor suppressor genes stop the cell cycle and can cause the cell to go into apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death. As the name suggests, these genes help prevent tumors and cancer from forming. When mutated they lose their function and thus their ability to prevent tumors, which can help give rise to cancers. Without active tumor suppressor genes, cells can grow out of control, which can lead to more mutations being gained and a tumor being formed. The genes I looked at are TP53, INK4, and PTEN-they have been chosen as they represent the range of functions tumor suppressor genes have and have been seen in cancers across the body. I looked at where the mutations are 5 occurring within the genes and examined potential differences between reproductive and nonreproductive organ-based cancers. Through the data I collected and the results of my analysis, I planned to create a dance to be performed in the Spring Dance Concert in 2020. This dance will be inspired by American and German theatrical Modern dance and will be an abstract representation of how tumor suppressors work and how they act when mutated. For my thesis, I blended art and science through the analysis of data and the creation of a dance. I explored how cancers and patients are affected by tumor suppressor genes in reproductive organ-based versus non-reproductive organ-based cancers. The reason behind this comparison lies in the difference in how the different organ system’s cells grow in terms of rate. It is hoped that a difference will be found and that may help understanding how cancer works. And then that can be explored through a dance and shared.

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