< Back to
< Back to all News
Cutting-Edge Cancer Scientist Dr. Bruce Horten Enlists Engineering Students to Help Target Medical Solutions
December 5, 2012
By Dale Long
Insight On Scientific Discoveries: Dr. Bruce
Horten, M.D., answers questions from students and Vice President
for Rose-Hulman Ventures Elizabeth Hagerman about future prospects
of targeted treatment for cancer.
Looking into the eyes of Rose-Hulman students before him in a
genetic engineering classroom, cutting-edge cancer scientist Dr.
Bruce Horten, M.D., could see the future of scientific discovery in
the fields of chemistry,
biomedical engineering, and chemical
"Oh, to be young again," exclaimed Horten after speaking to the
students. "These students are going to see dramatic change in the
health care field, possibly at a pace that's impossible to
comprehend right now."
Then, he stated, "These are great times to be entering medicine,
science, and engineering."
Horten, national medical director for the Integrated Oncology
Laboratory at LabCorp, is an advocate for the relatively new
concept of targeted therapy to treat a variety of cancers. A campus
presentation, "Targets: Transforming the Assault on Cancer,"
examined how the science of pathogenesis-investigating the genetic
variations underlying tumor development and progression-has
classified and targeted specific cancers.
By studying these abnormalities through Fluorescent in Situ
Hybridization (FISH), Horten and others have become more adept at
identifying specific forms of cancer and targeting drugs that are
disease specific to weaken the cancer without also weakening the
health of the individual cancer patient.
"The targets we're looking for are incredibly small, tiny in
fact," he stated while explaining his work with nucleotides. "At
this stage, we are in the infancy of targeted therapy."
One success story in targeted treatment is the case of chronic
myelogenous leukemia (CML), once considered a diagnosis with
terminal consequences. Medicine has been developed to convert the
disease into a chronic condition, with continued drug usage.
|Guest Teachers: Dr. Bruce Horten, M.D.,
national medical director for the Integrated Oncology Laboratory at
LabCorp, discussed current topics in the science of pathogenesis
while attending a class in genetic engineering.
"That's just phenomenal," he said.
However, that CML drug is effective by controlling just one
gene. How does targeted therapy control a cancer with as many as 15
genes, all interacting with others? Going forward, Horten asserted
that researchers are working on "multi-targeted" drugs. However,
the technology required to study those dynamics at the molecular
level is limited.
That's where Rose-Hulman students and alumni can come to the
For instance, Ross Weatherman,
Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and
biochemistry, and senior chemical engineering student
Katherine Moravec have conducted research on targeted therapy in
light of estrogen receptor proteins in breast cancer therapy,
focusing on the drug Tamoxifen.
"It's a pretty common breast cancer drug," Weather told The
Terre Haute Tribune-Star. His group is working to replicate and
test those replicas.
Horten's presentation was well attended by the campus and
community, nearly filling the Hatfield Hall Theater. It was
sponsored by Christa Percopo, wife of the late Rose-Hulman graduate
and trustee, Michael Percopo.
Rose-Hulman President Robert Coons credited Percopo's generosity
as important in helping foster important campus discussions on a
variety of strategic issues.
"Unfortunately, cancer has probably touched the lives of many
here," the president said in his introductory remarks.
Loyal Supporter: Christa Percopo, wife of the
late Rose-Hulman graduate and trustee, Michael Percopo, talks with
students and guests at a reception following Dr. Horten's
Engineering better medicines is one of the Grand Challenges of
Engineering, as identified by the National Academy of Engineering.
One area of interest is having engineers develop new systems to use
genetic information, sense small changes in the body, assess new
drugs, and deliver drugs to address medical conditions.
That is why Rose-Hulman brought Horten to speak to its students,
faculty and staff members at the presentation and other educational
activtiies, according to William Kline, Ph.D., Rose-Hulman's Dean
of Innovation and Engagement.
"Engineers are becoming ever more important in the field of
medicine," Kline acknowledged. "Biotechnologists, computer and
software engineers, and chemical engineers are just a few of the
specialties involved in helping medical doctors make these