March STEM Café explores cancer breakthroughs, barriers

Former NIU student Erik Curry (now in medical school at SIU) and Barrie Bode pipette samples from cancer cells for analysis.
Former NIU student Erik Curry (now in medical school at SIU) and Barrie Bode pipette samples from cancer cells for analysis.

Cancer is something we hear about every day, and nearly everyone has had a family member or friend affected by it – but what exactly is it? Why have we not cured the disease after decades of intensive research?

These are some of the important questions that will be addressed by Barrie Bode at the next NIU STEM Café: “Combating Cancer in the 21st Century: Where are we in the Fight against Cancer?” The talk will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at Eduardo’s Restaurant, 214 E. Lincoln Hwy. in downtown DeKalb.

Bode, chair of the NIU Department of Biological Sciences, has extensive experience with the complex nature of cancer biology and therapeutics because of his work researching cancer and teaching biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology. In 1993, he set up and ran the Surgical Oncology Research Laboratories at Harvard Medical School.

Since 1997, his research on the nutrient transporters in driving the growth of cancers has been funded by the National Cancer Institute.

“I would like to convey the complexity of the collection of diseases termed ‘cancer’ to the public,” Bode says. “People may be surprised to learn that cancer is not a single disease, and that the historical concept of ‘curing’ all cancers is yielding instead to a management mindset by clinicians and cancer biologists.”

An image of human liver cancer cells from Bode’s laboratory.
An image of human liver cancer cells from Bode’s laboratory.

Another key issue Bode will address is funding for cancer research.

“Federal funding has not kept pace given the budget challenges we face. The national cancer research budget is 1 percent of the national defense budget. We really need an honest conversation as a nation about how we will support progress in this area moving forward.”

Guests are invited to join in the discussion and bring questions for Bode.

NIU’s monthly STEM Cafés are one of many programs offered through NIU STEM Outreach, part of the award-winning NIU Center for P-20 Engagement. In addition to STEM Outreach programs and events, the P-20 Center has developed the STEM Read, Economic Education and SmartSpace@NIU programs, which aim to engage the community in lifelong learning.

STEM Cafés are free and open to the public. Food and drinks are available for purchase from Eduardo’s. For more information, call (815) 753-4751 or email jdymond@niu.edu.

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