Upcoming Groundbreaking Cancer-Fighting Research at Daemen University: A look at cancer cell research by new Assistant Professor of Chemistry

By Mia Schiffmacher

New cancer research is being explored by Daemen University’s new Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Dominic A. Sirianni. 

His use of quantum chemistry to reverse tumor growth could pave the way to reducing mortality rates in cancer patients.

Sirianni received his Bachelor of Science degrees in chemistry and mathematics from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2015. 

He then earned his Ph.D. in Theoretical Chemistry at Georgia Tech in 2020. Sirianni was also a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Richmond before becoming assistant professor of chemistry in the Department of Natural Sciences at Daemen University, teaching general and physical chemistry.

Sirianni also partakes in many research projects in addition to teaching in his free time. 

“For as long as I can remember, I have been wondering ‘why?’ I guess chemistry was just the first subject that started answering those ‘why?’ questions when I was in school growing up, so I latched on and have never let go,” said Sirianni.  

Through his own past experience, Sirianni has been affected by cancer, as have thousands of individuals throughout the world. 

His grandfather died of liver cancer after decades-untreated colon cancer metastasized. This is why Sirianni is adamant about early detection and intervention: the sooner cancer cells are detected in our bodies, the less destruction it does to our bodies.

“I want to help reduce patient mortality by developing novel anti-tumor pharmacological agents. And while that all is true – I do care deeply about helping reduce cancer’s mortality rate – the reason that I do any research projects is because I just love to learn, and science is a constant learning experience,” said Sirianni. 

His research involves using a specific reactive chemical species known as “free radicals,” whose damaging and cancer-causing properties are dangerous and unpredictable. When these 

molecules float around our bodies, they can rip apart proteins, mutate genetic codes, and can even cause cancer originally. 

Sirianni took this idea and has conducted studies on harnessing the power of the radicals to target cancerous cells, leaving our healthy cells left behind—cancer free.

Sirianni focuses on using the Bergman cyclization of enediynes, a form of chemistry where molecules push electrons around to make new bonds. Ultimately, a diradical molecule is generated, known as p-benzyne. Sirianni, as well as other chemists, hope to produce these molecules in cancer cells. 

Basic concepts of quantum mechanics (a theory that describes the movement of electrons in molecules) are also incorporated into Sirianni’s research. 

Furthermore, quantum mechanics determines how chemistry works, enabling scientists to be able to understand chemistry. 

In his research, he also notes how quantum chemistry can tell us how atoms come together to form molecules. These molecules can be stable or unstable, based on molecular orbitals, or how electrons are laid out throughout the molecule. 

Based on the studied orbitals of p-benzyne studied by Sirianni, the properties can be predicted. Sirianni hopes to use these radical properties to make a good tumor suppressant for cancer patients. 

However, it is difficult to produce these molecules based on differing conditions in the body. Sirianni, like any researcher, has encountered many obstacles throughout his career.

“A friend gave me some excellent advice: just because the results weren’t meaningful didn’t invalidate everything that I had learned along the way, in every aspect of my life,” said Sirianni. “That really helped me to gain perspective and trust myself again, and helped me to move forward with the science and with the rest of my life even after such crushing blows.”

Though his research on this topic is not yet published, Sirianni is still currently working on controlling this chemistry effectively to generate these molecules to hopefully reverse tumor growth in our bodies. 

In his website, linked below, he produces updates and announcements about his research.

Additionally, Sirianni is always encouraging and supporting students both inside and outside the laboratory and classroom. His research lab is open to mentor undergraduate students in his diradical research; it is open to all experience levels and backgrounds.

“Dr. Sirianni is always helping us to better understand the world around us as well as providing an inviting environment that I always look forward to,” said one of Sirianni’s general chemistry students, freshman pre-veterinary studies student Madison Rowe. 

For more information about Dr. Dominic Sirianni’s research studies, visit his website at https://wildkets.owlstown.net/ or visit him at his office in Duns Scotus 337A at Daemen University.

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