April V. Taylor
Kevin Stonewall, a teen from Chicago’s SouthSide, is not the typical teenager. Instead of being focused on what he will do after graduation, Stonewall is working at a Rush University lab helping to make breakthroughs in colon cancer research. The current college sophomore is majoring in biomedical engineering and has been contributing to the field since he was in high school.
According to BlackDoctor.org, Stonewall reports that he fell in love with science in the 5th grade after being fascinated by cells under a microscope. His interest in colon cancer came about after a friend’s uncle was diagnosed with the disease. Stonewall says that during the course of the uncle’s illness and death, his friend became troubled and began earning poor grades stating, “I saw the impact on him and how it impacted his life. Cancer has taken over a whole bunch of lives, and I felt like I needed to step up and do something about it.”
After testing an experimental vaccine in high school, Stonewall found that the vaccine did not have the same effect in older mice as it did in younger mice. This discovery had clinical significance because of the fact that the majority of colon cancer patients are elderly. Assistant professor Andrew Zloza points out that Stonewall’s discovery may have implications in other fields besides just colon cancer stating that Stonewall’s work “has suggested that drugs may not work the same in people of different ages. This means that age may have to be a factor when physicians choose which drugs and what dosage to use in people of different ages. This is something already taken into account for children versus adults, but now adults may need to be separated into groups by age.”
Sonewall’s findings have been presented at the Society for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. He hopes to eventually cure cancer. Stonewall’s research with colon cancer is critical as it is the third most common type of cancer for African Americans. African Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer more than any other ethnic group and also experience the highest death rates from colon cancer.