Curing Cancer?


Photo by Eliza D'Albora

LOTAs playing a board game about cells and cancer during class.

This spring semester, the science department started a new class for seniors, Molecular and Cell Biology: Cancer. Students study a number of different cancers, consider how cancer is diagnosed, and how it is treated in the field of medicine. 

Alison Simon, teacher of the class, explained her motivation for starting it.

“So many students do LLS and so many students have family and friends who have been affected by cancer, but they don’t know what it is,” Simon acknowledged. 

Senior Megan Locraft’s reasoning for enrolling in the course is similar to Simon’s intention for starting the class.

“[Going into this class], I knew that cancer is a terrible disease that kills so many people, but I didn’t really know much about the science of it,” Locraft confessed.

Simon decided to start this class this year because the science department is working to expand their offerings. 

“This year we were rolling out the [two new] classes, a semester anatomy class and a molecular class,” Simon revealed. 

At Simon’s previous school, the unit on genetics was based on cancer, as every section in the textbook kept relating back to the disease. Simon wanted to bring this to AHC and therefore developed the class. 

“What is a better [way] to think about molecular biology and genetics than explaining cancer,” Simon concluded. 

Even a class like this can help us understand other topics that are relevant in science.

— Alison Simon

Senior Michelle Gawlik mentioned how interactive and hands-on the cancer class is and how it has helped her acquire new skills. 

“I’ve definitely gained the skill of being more aware of how prevalent [cancer] is,” Gawlik stated. 

Locraft said that before the class she “didn’t realize how much ethics went behind the medicine that has to do with cancer.”

“Learning about it makes me want to find out more to try to get closer to a cure,” Locraft explained. 

This course has been beneficial to all the students and has taught them so much. 

“For me, it was beneficial in an ethical way, because we learned about the background of medicines and what goes into that, along with the historical timeline of how cancer has evolved,” Gawlik articulated. 

Simon shared that bioethics is a huge part of this course.

“Reading about Hentrietta Lacks, talking about the experience of people of color in medicine, and understanding how the relationship between doctor and patient has changed, is critical for [the medical and scientific communities] to continue to [improve] with the next generations,” Simon conveyed.

Learning about genetics and what happens in cells will help the seniors understand things in the news like pandemics. 

“Even a class like this can help us understand other topics that are relevant in science,” Simon pointed out. 

This curriculum has sparked interest in seniors to do their own part to find a cure.

“Molecular Biology is something that I would consider to pursue as a minor or use to see how I could contribute to research,” Gawlik confided.  

Simon discussed that this semester’s students will share their experience in the class to help see what went well and what did not, to improve this class for the future. 

“We will craft the class so it’s the best version of [itself] for Holy Cross,” Simon stated. 

Locraft says that she definitely recommends others to take the cancer class. 

“The more people know about it, the closer people are gonna be to finding a cure,” Locraft claimed.