Researching Cancer


Bluffton student researches cancer with the National Institutes of Health

Dean Walters ’18, a biology and pre-medicine major from Avon, Ohio, spent this past summer in Rockville, Md., researching cancer with the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, the newest branch of the National Institutes of Health.

“I applied because I wanted to complete some sort of research experience and gather insight into whether research would be a field of science that I would want to pursue in the future,” said Walters. “When I initially received the email about my acceptance into the program, I was taken back because of the extremely competitive nature of the program.”

Walters shared about his research and experience during a Feb. 6 Forum for students, faculty, staff and community members in Musselman Library at Bluffton University.

He explained that the overarching goal of NCATS is to reduce the time and costs of getting new treatments to patients.

“There are severe insufficiencies in the pharmaceutical business,” said Walters. “The normal time and cost for the production of just one drug to go through development and clinic trials is an average of 10 years and $2.6 billion.”

Walters’ research focused on the relatively new field of epigenetic modifications or alterations of gene functions which are passed down from generation to generation but are not due to changes in the DNA sequence. Walters was ready for the experience because of his education at Bluffton. “My upper-level biology courses taught by Dr. Angela Montel really did prepare me in terms of the content with which my research was involved.”

While many of the research results were not what Walters’ group had hoped for, his group did achieve some results toward the end of the experience to pass on to collaborators for future testing.

“All results within research are important because even if everything goes wrong and you do not get the results that you were working for, you now know what doesn't work,” Walters said adding, “and that can be just as helpful at times.”

Walters will graduate in May. In addition to being a full time student, he is a medical scribe at Mercy Health, St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Ohio.