Pupil in bid to crack cancer riddle

Stutterheim High School pupil Konwaba Putsu aims to stop cancer's scourge. /Supplied
Stutterheim High School pupil Konwaba Putsu aims to stop cancer's scourge. /Supplied

Konwaba Putsu lost his uncle to cancer in 2008, and that encouraged him to do research on the deadly disease.

The 17-year-old grade 11 pupil at Stutterheim High School in Stutterheim, Eastern Cape, has done research on cancer that has caught the attention of Rhodes University.

It took Konwaba a few months to work on his research ideas about a new way of breaking cancer cells down.

"My family is still struggling to come to terms with my uncle's death and we were always worried about who is going to die next.

"I was still young when he died but till today my family is still affected by his death, especially with the fact that he died from cancer ... something that is still taboo among black families," Konwaba said.

Cancer causes more deaths in SA than any other illnesses.

According to the Cancer Association of South Africa, about 115,000 South Africans are diagnosed with cancer a year.

Konwaba began working on his research in December as he was interested in knowing what can be done to stop the spread of cancer in the body.

"Early this year I presented my idea at the Eskom Science Expo when they came to Makhanda [formerly Grahamstown].

"It was turned down because they said it was only theory and there was no evidence.

"That did not put me off and in March this year I met a lady who was impressed with my research and she gave my details to professors at Rhodes.

"They called me, saying they were interested in collaborating with me," Konwaba said.

He said his research ideas will be tested by Rhodes University in December.

Rhodes spokesperson Velisile Bukula said the university was approached by Konwaba to talk about his research ideas.

"We invited him to come and discuss his theories in December and to spend time in our laboratory," he said.

Bukula said at this stage they can't say much about the collaboration.

Konwaba's life sciences teacher Tracy Dunne said the school was excited about his achievement.

"He is one of my top students in class. I was not surprised when I heard the news as he is always coming with great ideas.

"The university was impressed with his ideas as they resonate with the research by its students," said Dunne yesterday.

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