July 16, 2009

Med student with rare cancer in research

A Chicago-area medical student says he began working as a researcher on the rare brain cancer glioblastoma after he was diagnosed with the disease.

P.J. Lukac told the Chicago Tribune he decided to talk to Dr. Markus Bredel, head of research at the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, a few weeks after learning he had a life expectancy of just over a year. He said some people think of cancer as having a mystical power but Bredel has really reduced it to a set equation, with these genes as variables.

At the time, Lukac was a second-year medical student at Columbia University. The cancer, the same one afflicting Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., is extremely rare.

The last two or three months, being here and doing what I've been able to do, it just feels great, Lukac said Wednesday. It sounds really weird, but it has been two or three of the best months of my life.

This month, Bredel and his team published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association identifying 31 genes associated with glioblastoma.

Having P.J. around us as a co-worker and friend is something that motivates our whole team in trying to be as quick and good as possible in finding that needle in a haystack, or needles in the haystack, to make progress in the treatment ... from which, hopefully, P.J. will be able to benefit, Bredel said.