From the Nominator
As the author wrote, T-cells are the immune system’s warriors; they are skilled at protecting the body from obvious foreign invaders like viruses. But they can be guileless heroes when it comes to cancer. Malignant cells are double agents, mutated versions of the body’s normal cells that can escape a T-cell’s detection. It’s never been a fair fight. UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Research Center set out to attract the people, and commit the resources to change that. In simplest terms, T-cells are removed from the patient’s body, outfitted with unique receptors designed to recognize and bind to proteins, or antigens, found on the patient’s specific tumor cells. The souped-up cells are then multiplied in a lab, and reintroduced to the patient’s blood to begin attacking their targets. The process is infant, fraught with stumbling blocks and enormously expensive—and it’s just the kind of challenge UNC health care research regularly takes on. The Carolina Alumni Review is fortunate to have a writer—a former member of our staff—who has a portfolio of complicated science stories made not only digestible but riveting for our general audience. The T-cells venture is the largest research program ever established at the Lineberger Center.
From the Judges
We enjoyed this piece, especially being able to see how science is helping others in the real world. We liked the use of the case study, and that it was threaded throughout the story. We thought the spanning of time and the multiple spokespeople involved was well structured. It also dealt well with the failures of the research, and addressed things that didn't go well—which is often something people ignore.