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Student aids cancer research

July 07, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN

While many college kids spend their summer earning money and tanning at the beach, Michael McCormack is researching a promising new cancer drug with one of his professors at Lafayette College.

"I'm looking to go to medical school for oncology," said McCormack, of Hagerstown.

McCormack is the lone student in his research program, working with Dr. Shyamal Majumdar on three different types of cancer - breast, cervical and leukemia.

The pair uses lines of cells from mice in their research on breast cancer, McCormack said.

McCormack is working with the drug Raloxifene, now on the market to treat osteoporosis, because it has been shown to be a possible alternative to the cancer treatment drug Tamoxifen, which has been linked to an increased risk in uterine cancer and blood clots, McCormack said.

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"I'm looking to see if there's anything to be gained in combining the two drugs," he said.

After this summer, McCormack said, he will be working with human breast cells in his research.

McCormack, who graduated from St. James School near Hagerstown in 2003, chose Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., because he wanted a college that was strong in the sciences and had an engineering program, he said. He will be a senior in the fall.

In the end, Lafayette won out because it was "closer to home," he said.

McCormack said that his father, who is an oncologist in Hagerstown, originally inspired his career choice.

McCormack's father, Dr. Michael McCormack, said he would not discourage his son from pursuing a medical career.

"There are pluses and minuses," said the elder McCormack, who practices medicine at the John Marsh Cancer Center in Hagerstown. "It's clearly something he really wants to do ... I probably do think it's the right kind of thing for him to do."

Last summer, the younger McCormack worked at Penn State's Hershey Medical School. McCormack said he saw young children with debilitating diseases and their parents trying to function as though everything was normal, which "was one of the most moving experiences," he said.

Having taken medical school entrance exams, the MCATs, in April, McCormack said he now is awaiting his fate in terms of medical school.

"The goal is to get in the first year," McCormack said.

If he isn't accepted into a medical school for the year following his graduation from college, McCormack said he would attend a post-baccalaureate program and try for medical school again.

"I would say Michael was a pretty average kid growing up," his father said. "A bright kid, but not a superbrain."

McCormack now is looking at medical schools in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He said that he would most like to attend the University of Maryland or the University of Virginia because they are prestigious universities.

In the end, McCormack said, all he wants is "really to just be a good doctor."

Submitted photo

Michael McCormack of Hagerstown, left, a junior at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., has been collaborating with Lafayette biology professor Shyamal K. Majumdar, right, and a team of Lafayette students on research into the combined effects of several well-known anti-cancer drugs.

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