The College of St. Scholastica

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A Century of Saints

Cancer Research at St. Scholastica

St. Scholastica students working in the Cancer Research Lab, Towers Yearbook, 1952
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In the spring of 1946, St. Scholastica opened a cancer research lab in conjunction with Institutum Divi Thomae in Cincinnati, OH. The Institutum Divi Thomae was a scientific research center organized by Rev. John T. McNicholas, Archbishop of Cleveland, for graduate students preparing to do specialized research. The institute was focused on anti-cancer research, but its best-known invention is perhaps Preparation H. In 1942, the Rev. McNicholas invited two sisters from St. Scholastica to study at the institute. Sr. Petra Lenta and Sr. Agatha Riehl were chosen and studied there for three years.

Upon their return to St. Scholastica, the College outfitted a cancer research lab for the two biochemists. Over the fifteen-year period before the lab was discontinued, Sr. Petra and Sr. Agatha published several scientific papers on the growth of abnormal cells, several of which are still available.

The Coenzyme I Oxidase System in Normal and Tumor Tissues - Cancer Research Journal, July 1952 (pdf)

The Influence of Metallic Chelates on the Diphosphopyridine Nucleotide Oxidase and the Dophosphopyridine Nucleotide-Cytochrome c Reductase Systems - The Journal of Biological Chemistry, March 1960 (pdf)

Dehydrogenase Studies of Tissue from Normal and Tumor-bearing Mice: I. Total Dehydrogenase Activity - Cancer Research Journal, January 1949 (pdf)

Dehydrogenase Studies of Tissue from Normal and Tumor-bearing Mice: II. Lactic and Malic Dehydrogenases - Cancer Research Journal, January 1949 (pdf)

Sr. Petra and Sr. Agatha in the cancer research lab, Towers Yearbook, 1957
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Sister Petra was a native Duluthian, and her father was an accomplished stonemason. He built the Sacred Heart Shrine, the pillars at the entrance to the Monastery cemetary, and the bridge that spans Chester Creek on Skyline Drive. Sister Petra celebrated her 90th birthday last summer, and is renowned for her contributions to the College in the area of cancer research.

Sister Agatha's original interest was Home Economics, but she had a strong aptitude for biochemistry as well, earning a M.S. in 1945 and a Ph.D. in 1966. She retired from the College in 1998 after 53 years of teaching and still enjoys sewing, contributing many handmade articles to the Monastery gift shop.


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