Lancaster Catholic student wins 65th annual science fair with project testing effect of cannabinoids on cancer cells

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For 11-year-old Dominick Baksh, the pressure is on.

A fifth-grader at St. Anne School in Lancaster, Dominick on Wednesday witnessed his older brother, Daniel, a sophomore at Lancaster Catholic High School, win the 65th annual North Museum Science & Engineering Fair – the second brother to do so.

Sanjeethan Baksh was named grand champion in 2008.

“I’m very excited and elated,” the boys’ father, Fabien Baksh, said. “It’s great for them to be able to work hard and achieve something, especially in science, which I think is downplayed in our schools and society in general.”

Daniel took the highest honor at this year’s event, held at Spooky Nook Sports, where more than 340 Lancaster County students strutted their scientific stuff for hundreds of wide-eyed visitors.

Wednesday’s other major award-winners include senior champion Alexis Kellogg and senior reserve champion and LNP/Lancaster County STEM Alliance Innovator Award winner Akash Banerjee, both 10th graders at Warwick High School; junior champion Krishnakvmar Chinnasamy and Pritesh Tanna, both seventh graders at Manheim Township Middle School.

The top two winners — Daniel and Alexis — will compete in May at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh. Akash will serve as the alternate

Daniel’s winning project sought to quantify the effects, positive or negative, of cannabinoids on squamous cell carcinoma – that is, a form of skin cancer – cells.

To do that, he created and tested cells to find out if the use of cannabinoids decelerated their growth. And they did.

Daniel’s conclusion: Marijuana could have a beneficial effect on squamous cell cancer by decreasing cell proliferation and growth.

Daniel said he wasn’t surprised by the results, as it aligned with his hypothesis, which he made about three months ago on, of all days, Christmas.

He’s been hard at work ever since. A few road bumps along the way, however, almost derailed his entire project.

The cells wouldn’t grow at first, so, with the help of his brother, Sanjeethan, who works at Cornell University, he sought help from professors there. With their help, Daniel eventually got the cells to grow and continued with his project.

Daniel said it was important for him to finish, in part because his grandfather has prostate cancer.

“There’s so many different types of cancer and I think that we as a society and a human race should keep on striving to find a cure,” he said.

Although he doesn’t fully agree with recreational legalization of marijuana, Daniel believes that medicinal marijuana could help those suffering from cancer and other diseases.

Daniel, said he hopes to study either medicine or music at Franklin & Marshall College. Both of his parents, Fabien and Shashi, are pathologists.

As far as what the future holds for his younger brother, Dominick, only time will tell.

 By: Alex Geli, Lancaster Online

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