RPS 205 Capstone project targets cancer treatment

UPDATE: Auburn High School senior Brad Foster won first prize in the RPS 205 Capstone presentations April 30. Second place was Nicholas Cordonnier. Sierra MacEachron was third, and Nicholas Kissick was fourth. The winners received a total of $2,000 in gift cards from Barnes & Noble to use toward the purchase or rental of textbooks for college.


To Brad Foster’s mind, he had two advantages in doing his Capstone project: His sister and a lab full of scientists.

Foster is a senior in Auburn High School’s Renaissance Academy, where he is enrolled in a senior seminar course that will culminate Saturday, April 30, in the presentation of a Capstone project. Capstones allow seniors to combine theory and practice to demonstrate a high level of scholarship and college and career readiness.

Brad Foster works in the lab as part of his senior Capstone project in RPS 205.

Brad Foster works in the lab as part of his senior Capstone project in RPS 205.

Foster’s project involves research into a new method for treating non-small cell lung cancer. With the help of the lab at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, he is researching what happens in a cell when all of a single protein (p120-catenin) is destroyed. To help him do the research, Swedish American donated a product called a siRNA (silencing ribonucleic acid), which destroys all of a single protein in a cell. The product costs about $400.

That’s why Brad Foster is grateful to the medical community and the U of I lab. But he’s also grateful to his sister Kate, a junior at Auburn, who supplied the inspiration for his project. Six years ago, Kate was diagnosed with leukemia. A massive infection left her with a choice: Lose the leg and proceed with a bone marrow transplant, or lose her life. Kate chose the former. She is not only healthy now but continues to compete as a gymnast. She has been featured on the Today show and, most recently, ABC News.

“That is what’s driven my interest in cancer research, and ultimately I’d love to be a doctor who both treats patients and tries to develop even better treatment methods,” Brad Foster wrote in an email. He will attend Duke University in the fall and plans to major in biomedical engineering.

Foster will be one of four students who will present their Capstones from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 30, in room M300 at Auburn. Rockford Public Schools administrators will evaluate the presentations as the students compete for textbook scholarships.

“As the culminating academic experience for the gifted program, the presentations will feature the best our impressive students can produce,” said John Rauh, who teaches the senior seminar at Auburn.

Brad Foster has already received his reward. “I almost didn’t do this project because it was too experimental and there was a significant chance I would be wrong, but I turned out to be right and made a valuable discovery,” he said.

To find out what it was, join the students on Saturday.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *