Faculty Publications & Research


High School Research Innovations: Glioblastoma multiforme studies

Document Type

Conference Paper/Presentation


Presented at the Experimental Biology Conference, San Diego

Publication Date



Life Sciences | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Physiology


The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA), Aurora, Illinois, is a residential magnate school for students gifted in math and science. My Physiology classes have evolved over the past 15 years to be mostly student centered, which has proven to be the best way to challenge students to take responsibility for their own learning. This year, I have initiated a Scientific Inquiry and Research (SIR) class on Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) research. Over the years, as students worked on various research projects, the question of how normal cells become cancerous has always been at the heart of most discussions but up until now, I did not have a dedicated group of students willing to study brain cell cancer formation and its prevention. The goal of this research is student understanding of the mechanisms of cancer and the relationship between structure and function of the cells involved in causing GBM. Based on the study of structure‐function interactions through the building of a heart model in my Physiology class, students visualize concepts better through hands‐on activities, and this would be a great opportunity to work toward a cure for brain cancer. This opportunity will allow my students to use inquiry to develop their experimental methods and to tweak their research to study specific molecules in these cell lines that have been shown to play a role in cancer formation. This project will also help students integrate their research of scientific literature into their inquiry based ideas to use natural compounds to stop cancer formation before it begins.

Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most aggressive cancers known to humans, affecting the brain or spinal cord. Glioblastoma form from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Student research will address one of the following three issues: 1. How effectively are natural treatments for GBM, such as Boswellia serrata and curcumin given after surgery? These treatments are given after surgery to try and prevent recurrence of the cancer but evidence on their effectiveness is slim at best. Students will study the effect of these and other natural substances on GBM cell lines. 2. How can a simple method for detecting cathepsin D in GBM cell lines be developed? Cathepsin D is part of a family of Cathepsins that are indicated as markers of cancer. Modern detection techniques involve proteomic analysis, which is complicated; other methods exist, which students will study to develop a simplified assay. 3. How can lab techniques such as matrigel invasion assay and scratch test help in studying differences in cell proliferation between different GBM cell lines? Students will focus on identifying the specific factors that enhance cell proliferation in cell lines.

The main objective of this project is to model cancer formation in a glioblastoma cell line with an end goal of understanding the structure‐function relationships between these cells and the mechanism of formation of cancer, specifically how these cells turn cancerous. This project conforms to several NGSS standards and it is hoped to complete much of the preliminary research before the end of the year.