Finding Patterns to Find a Cure: Zackery Caporale '21

By analyzing pages and pages of health data, biology student Zackery Caporale ’21 is searching for patterns that may unlock some of the mystery surrounding lung cancer.

By analyzing pages and pages of health data, biology student Zackery Caporale ’21 is searching for patterns that may unlock some of the mystery surrounding lung cancer.

For cancer researchers studying gene mutations and their role in certain cancers, the National Institutes of Health’s vast database of patient case files is arguably the most valuable resource in the search for a cure.

One of those researchers is UC biology student Zackery Caporale ’21.

With help from Assistant Professor of Biology Brandee Rockefeller, Caporale has spent the past several months combing through NIH’s patient case files looking for the specific gene mutations present in patients with non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 80 percent of all lung cancer cases, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Specific mutations in the Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog, known as the KRAS gene, might indicate that certain treatments will work better than others,” explains Caporale

“Detecting these patterns and connections will eventually help us to determine more effective treatments for this type of lung cancer.”

Caporale, who plans to pursue medical school after graduating from UC, says he’s inspired to study medicine and cell biology after seeing the toll diseases like Alzheimer’s have taken on his own loved ones.

“I’ve always been interested in the life systems and how diseases work in the body,” he says, “Because when we have better insight into what causes these diseases, we’re closer to finding a cure.”

For Rockefeller, the benefit goes beyond having Caporale’s help in the lab.

“There is nothing better as a scientist than getting students involved in your research,” she says. “There is nothing better than seeing a young scientist when things start to click and realizing ‘Wow, I’m doing something really big here.’”

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