Two hardworking young adults. Two diseases. One important goal: increase our understanding of pediatric cancers. Katharina Wyns and Ethan Krauspe, this year’s recipients of St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow Grants, will spend their time at the University of Colorado Cancer Center’s Summer Research Program exploring careers in cancer research while working in the lab to explore pediatric brain cancer and melanoma, respectively.
Donors and volunteers of St. Baldrick’s have enabled the foundation to fund more than $103 million in grants to increase research in childhood cancer. Each $5,000 Summer Fellow Grant supports a students working in pediatric cancer projects.
Katharina Wyns: A Brush with Brain Cancer Sparks Interest
Katharina Wyns completed her undergraduate education at Baylor University with a major in biochemistry and is currently a student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She became interested in brain cancer when her grandpa was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of malignant brain tumor, two and half years ago.
“I want to be involved in the care my grandpa is receiving,” says Wyns. Wyns has not yet decided on a medical specialty but has a strong interest in oncology. “Oncology is a very open field and we still have a lot to learn,” she says. “I see this as an opportunity to be a pioneer in the field.”
Wyns will be researching pediatric brain cancer under Nicholas Foreman, MD, CU Cancer Center investigator and director of pediatric neuro-oncology at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Wyns wanted to be involved in Foreman’s lab due to the translational nature of the work – seeing treatments move from the bench to the bedside.
Wyns is not only making breakthroughs in the medical field; she is also the first in her family to be involved in the military. She is currently participating in the Health Professions Scholarship Program through the Air Force, which pays for her education in return for four years of service upon completion of medical school and her residency.
“I always thought about going into the Air Force,” Wyns says. “This was the perfect opportunity to serve the men and women in the military.”
Working in pediatrics is Wyns’ first choice, though she’d like to explore other areas. In her first year of medical school she was able to work in the Specialty Care Clinic at the Children’s Hospital Colorado. The clinic offers primary care and consultation services to children with chronic medical conditions and special healthcare needs.
Wyns is truly enjoying the experience of working with children. “Being able to see the impact the doctor has on the lives of his or her patients is unique,” she says, “plus kids are really fun to work with.”
Ethan Krauspe: A Second Summer of Research
Ethan Krauspe is no stranger to the St. Baldrick’s grant. This is his second time named a recipient. Originally from Chicago, Krauspe, an avid rock climber, was lured to Colorado by the rocks in 2008. Since then he has discovered his passion in biology and chemistry and was granted a position in the fellowship program.
Krauspe is exploring the biochemical pathways of melanoma risk, and the correlations between childhood sun exposure and melanocytic nevi (mole) production. He is currently studying under Neil Box, PhD, CU Cancer Center investigator and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Krauspe focuses his research on key oncogenic and tumor suppressor pathways that regulate the development of melanblasts. When these pathways are mutated early in life they may give a rise to melanoma in adults.
Krauspe will graduate from the University of Urbana-Champaign in Illinois next year with a major in biochemistry. When he is not in the lab this summer he will continue to spend his free time up on the rocks.