It only takes 10 minutes to make $10 in the Biology Department at West Chester University.
Professor Sarah Stamis, along with Dr. Leslie Slusher of the Biology Department, are conducting research into the cause and effect of prostate cancer, specifically in African American men. Both professors are conducting a screening test for men. Ten minutes to urinate into a cup and fill out surveys and paperwork will earn male students $10.
“We’re looking at prostate cancer,” Stamis said. “Prostate cancer is a serious and usually under recognized problem in America.”
Along with the research being done, the event, “No Shave November” was in support and awareness of prostate cancer. “But other than that, it doesn’t have much recognition that some of the other cancers do,” Stamis said, which is part of the reason why research is being conducted. Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in American men and is the second-leading cause of death in American men over the age of 50.
“The big problem with it is that there really aren’t that many treatment options for prostate cancer,” Stamis said. “There are chemotherapies but nothing’s been cured so there is no way to cure it. If someone has an aggressive form of prostate cancer, they don’t have that many options.”
Stamis talked about some of the surgical options but noted that there are horrendous side effects to those options such as sterility and erectile dysfunction. Stamis also noted that these side effects are usually hard to cope with.
“We are trying to find one of the roots and changes that happen early on in the process of going from normal to cancer,” Stamis said. “We are trying to go back and find one of those changes that occurs so that from there, you can tease out a chemotherapy. It gives you a starting point to go through and find what it is and what’s important in what you are looking for, what’s going to help.”
Stamis and her research team started looking at a family of genes called Alcohol Dehydrogenase. Alcohol Dehydrogenase has been studied a lot in its role in ethanol metabolism. “For example, if you go to a bar and have a beer, your ADH (Alcohol Dehydrogenase) kicks in and it starts metabolizing all that ethanol,” Stamis said. “So instead of staying drunk forever, you wake up the next morning and you’re not drunk because you have that metabolized all the ethanol.”
ADH has antioxidant properties. ADH will clean up all the toxins and debris inside cells that would cause cancer.
“What I have found and what Dr. Slusher has found is that in the prostate, ADH normally has some sort of maintenance function that it is doing. So it is taking care of all the antioxidants and cleaning your cells out,” Stamis said. “But then in cancer, it’s absent so there is something that has changed from normal to cancer with these ADH genes present in normal and not in cancer.” What Stamis is looking at when it comes to the research is why is that change present?
Endo Pharmaceuticals, located in Chadds Ford, Pa, and CEO of Endo Pharmaceuticals, David Holveck, also a WCU alumni, has taken an interest in the research that is being done.
“What we’re trying to do now is we’re trying to turn this into some sort of screening test for men to screen for susceptibility for prostate cancer,” Stamis said. “Another aspect of this, which is exciting to find, is that we have found what types of ADH are present in Caucasian men and African American men.”
African American men are at the most risk for getting prostate cancer and are even at a higher risk in dying from it. “We have this group of genes that we’re looking at with this antioxidant property and we have found that there is a different set that is expressed in African American men and so we’re thinking that this may play a really important role in that process for African American men that maybe doesn’t exist in other ethnic groups,” Stamis said, explaining her excitement for this discovery.
So far, Stamis has received 99 participants but only 10 of which, were African American. Stamis’s goal is to screen test 200 men for prostate cancer. Stamis is hoping for more African American men to come in for the screen testing. The deadline for the screen tests will be in February.
Stamis also mentioned student, Alfred Bedell, who helped Stamis to “think like students by offering incentive and using humor.”
“The procedure is real easy. All they have to do is come in, they have to urinate in a cup, then they’ll fill out a survey, and paperwork for validation,” Stamis said.
Stamis started the research in the graduate program and has a MS in Biology from WCU. She is a research technician and is also a part of the faculty. Dr. Slusher is also helping with the research. She has a Ph.D. in Pharmacology. Undergraduate student, Alfred Bedell, is also helping out with research. Women are also welcomed to participate in this when it comes to helping out with the research. Biology students can also gain credit for helping out with the study through an independent study course.
“I want students to know that this is an opportunity at West Chester to be a part of something that has a big potential impact and if they get involved in it, they can be a part of it,” Stamis said.
Stamis is the initial contact for the research and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions about the research.
Angela Thomas is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.