Keven Stonewall (pictured), 19, is on a serious mission: he hopes to one day create a vaccine that will eradicate colon cancer. The Chicago South Side youth has already started working on a potential cancer cure at a Rush University laboratory, reports DNAInfo Chicago.
The youth’s love of science began back in fifth grade, when he became fascinated by the appearance of cells under a microscope. Stonewall’s love of the sciences grew to such extremes that one Christmas he was gifted four microscopes by his parents who are educators. It was during his freshman year at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences that Stonewall began focusing on the need for the eradication of colon cancer. He watched not only a dear friend’s uncle succumb to the disease but witnessed first hand how the illness negatively impacted his school mate, telling DNAInfo Chicago, “Cancer has taken over a whole bunch of lives, and I felt like I needed to step up and do something about it.”
Stonewall was a senior in high school when he jumped on the opportunity to do an internship at the university, which is the academic arm of the Rush Medical Center. He worked in the lab with a professor who taught immunology/microbiology and general surgery. Stonewall began to consume literature about how a chemotherapeutic agent could possibly destroy certain cancer cells while still promoting a healthy immune response.
The young researcher, who has already won numerous awards for his research and was a finalist for the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair last year, then began testing his potential vaccine on mice. He injected a concentrated amount of the cancer-treating drug Mitoxantrone in younger and older mice. Stonewall then injected the rodents with aggressive colon cancer cells.
Stonewall waited three days to check out the effects of his experiment: The younger mice benefitted from the vaccine as their cancer was in fact eradicated and they had developed immunity. The older mice were still ridden with the cancerous tumors.
According to Rush lab’s Director Dr. Carl Ruby, Stonewall’s experiment was quite a breakthrough as scientists now see that a special vaccine is needed for older cancer subjects: Colon cancer is more prevalent among the elderly. Ruby spoke to the New York Daily News about Stonewall, saying, “[He] should be heralded for helping to develop more effective colon cancer treatments that will impact the elderly, the population that is most susceptible to colon cancer. He has all the tools. He will go far.”
Stonewall, who is now a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is still working on the vaccine that he prays will one day be tested on humans. The young man is keeping hope alive that his work will in fact be the answer to a dreaded disease that has taken the lives of many, so until then, he tells the New York Daily News, “If you don’t plan to succeed, you’re planning to fail.”