Dr. Jason Bush: "Cancer research doesn't stop on the weekends, doesn't stop at midnight."
Cancer research at Fresno State began with the hiring of Dr. Jason Bush in 2006.
The 42-year-old Canadian began his career focusing on skin cancers. Since then, his work has evolved, and now, the focus is on breast and prostate cancers.
"We're heavily invested in trying to understand, is there a relationship between breast and prostate cancer, what we call the hormone dependent cancers, and pesticide exposure."
Dr. Bush says there might be a connection, and an elevated risk for farmworkers. One project's focus is on the risk of prostate cancer, another is studying female farmworkers who've been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Researchers are looking at cancer cells to evaluate the effects of pesticides on tissues, and how those respond to pesticide exposure. As studies continue, Bush and his students get closer to determining the cancerous damage pesticides can have on the human body. Progress comes thanks to grants from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.
So, why is this research at Fresno State so important?
Look at the numbers. According to the American Cancer Institute, in the six counties that make up the Central Valley, over 900 new cases of breast cancer are expected this year, with 175 expected to lose their fight with the disease.
For prostate cancer, over 800 new cases are expected by the end of the year, with 120 expected to die from it. Students are also trying to find the markers of the early stages of pancreatic cancer.
"So I'm just washing away cell debris."
Grad student Cynthia Contreras is working on a project that could determine the differences between cancer that spreads to the bone... And the breast cancer itself.
Cynthia Contreras: "The large scope of what we're looking at is how breast cancer metastasizes, or spreads to the specific areas of the body. For my particular project, it's bone."
Undergrad Carrie Tambo recently returned from the prestigious Sanford-Burnham Institute in La Jolla, where she was "thrown to the wolves," as Dr. Bush says, learning how drugs reach cancer cells.
Carrie Tambo: "I've always loved science. Growing up, it's the most interesting part, you know how you grow up and find your niche? Science is my niche."
They're not necessarily working on a cure.
Dr. Bush says it's about prevention and treatment.
"We're working on information that will empower people so that they perhaps can get screened earlier."
Doctor bush's team consists of 10 graduate and 10 undergrad students. Fresno state is now looking to integrate with UC Merced so that students can eventually work on their doctorate degrees there.