After seeing how his mother dealt with the disease, USC’s Peter Kuhn tackles the toughest questions about cancer

The power of fear drove cancer researcher Peter Kuhn toward his vocation

USC Professor Peter Kuhn
Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences Peter Kuhn does his cancer research at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. (Photo/Noé Montes)

Kuhn is a cancer researcher at the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience. He studies how cancer invades the human body.

One day, his mother, Rosi, found a lump in her breast. Cancer. It was foreign to her body and her temperament. She was barely 50, jovial and hardworking in the orchard.

“But the fear in her face for her future when she found out. I remember that. I grew up with that in my life. You never forget that,” Kuhn said.

His mother underwent an experimental treatment to control the tumor. She survived. But the fear persisted. Thereafter, any ache or pain triggered dread.

“I would see it in her eyes, her very first thought was, ‘It’s back, isn’t it? Cancer is back!’ So you ask yourself as a young man, ‘Why is that? Why does that happen? What can be done about it?’”

Another woman in town was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was treated at the same time using the same approach at the same clinic. The two women became friends, bound by circumstance and disease. The other woman died. Before she passed, she told Rosi, “Tell Peter to keep doing what he’s doing, to keep studying science, because someday it will lead to something good that can help women like us.”

He did.

By Gary Polakovic

> Read the original story on USC News.