Cancer center hosts hands-on open house to raise awareness

Todd Milbourn

After being treated for cancer at the University almost 40 years ago, Leslie Rolstad returned to campus Sunday for the Masonic Cancer Center’s open house to gauge how cancer treatment has advanced since the early 1960’s.
“My first reaction was ‘Wow! How things have changed,'” said Rolstad, who lives in Fridley. “It’s very interesting to see how treatment has evolved and been revolutionized.”
The fifth annual open house gave visitors, like Rolstad, a chance to see modern cancer treatment behind the scenes.
All afternoon, visitors toured the radiation oncology lab, heard experts field questions about cancer and got a chance to perform their own DNA experiments.
The variety of activities, geared toward different ages and interests, made the open house a family event.
“I brought my son last year, and he liked it so much, I brought my niece this year,” said Mike Kehoss of Golden Valley, who has attended the open house annually since 1997. “She can’t get enough of science and really likes the hands-on stuff. I come for the speeches and displays.”
Megan Stuart, Kehoss’s 13-year-old niece, said the DNA spooling exhibit was her favorite part of the open house.
“I like to see the way things work,” said Stuart, who is a seventh-grader at a Twin Cities middle school. “It’s all so complex and yet so fun.”
The DNA spooling experiment allowed attendees to be cancer researchers for a day.
The experiment began with “researchers” taking fish DNA and separating it with a salt solution. After the DNA was isolated, the “researcher” mixed it with alcohol, allowing the DNA to become visible in its “spool” shape. Attendees got to take home the DNA they spooled in a small container.
The open house provided interested members of the community with a chance to see University cancer research firsthand.
“It’s important for the public to come in and learn about what’s going on at the University,” said Coleen Southwell, cancer center communications director and coordinator of the open house. “After all, it’s their University. It’s their research.”
The cancer center aims to improve care of patients by researching causes, prevention, detection and treatment of cancer. Scientists from varying backgrounds then apply that knowledge to improve a patient’s quality of life.
The center has been designated by the National Cancer Institute as a comprehensive cancer center. The distinction places the center among the nation’s top cancer-research institutions.
The cancer center is researching cancer genetics, immunology, cell biology and metastasis, transplant biology and therapy. It also has programs in prevention and etiology.

Todd Milbourn covers science and technology. He welcomes comments at [email protected] He also can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3231.