SJC Long Island Student Studies Cancer for Senior Research

December 05, 2018

PATCHOGUE, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 5, 2018 - St. Joseph's College (SJC) student Danielle Guercio knew exactly what she wanted to focus her research on for her senior thesis — a treatment option for bladder cancer that had claimed the lives of two family members.

Guercio, a senior at SJC Long Island in Patchogue, worked closely with Valerie Giordano, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, in St. Joseph’s biology labs throughout the summer to study bladder cancer cells and how to prevent cell growth with a chemical called bufalin.

“My research was focused on working with bladder cancer cells in order to study a way to prevent cell growth,” said Guercio, a double major in biology and psychology who also minors in chemistry. “The chemical I used was called bufalin, which is a cardiotonic steroid, meaning it is a heart stimulant. It is isolated from the venom of Asiatic toads. This substance has been found to have adverse effects on cancer cells and no effect on cells of the same cell type. The purpose of my experiment was to further explore how this drug manipulates the cell cycle in the cancer cells.”

Through her research, Guercio concluded that bufalin does in fact have adverse effects on cancer cells. However, complications with her experiment made it impossible to determine which protein concentrations were affected at this time.

“After conducting a dosage curve, based on my results, it was determined an optimal dose of the drug would be somewhere between 0.2 micromolar and 0.4 micromolar, which is promising because bufalin has been shown to have adverse effects on the heart at slightly higher dosages from previous studies conducted by other researchers,” Guercio said. “I am interested in retesting this portion of my experiment in the future with either a different method or repetition of the old method, since the initial method is a very hard procedure to conduct,” she said.

Guercio is currently filling out applications for doctoral programs in cell biology.

St. Joseph’s College has been dedicated to providing a diverse population of students in the New York metropolitan area with an affordable education rooted in the liberal arts tradition since 1916. Independent and coeducational, the College provides a strong academic and value-oriented education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, aiming to prepare each student for a life characterized by integrity, intellectual and spiritual values, social responsibility and service. Through SJC Brooklyn, SJC Long Island and SJC Online, the College offers degrees in 50 majors, special course offerings and certificates, affiliated and pre-professional programs.