North­eastern under­grad­uate student-​​researcher Billy Smith has landed a plum that uni­ver­sity fac­ulty mem­bers strive for: an article in a leading sci­ence journal.

Smith, a third-​​year chem­istry major, coau­thored an article in Nature mag­a­zine about a promising treat­ment for a rare form of cancer, based on research he did on co-​​op at Dana-​​Farber Cancer Institute.

I’m still in shock that the paper is out,” said Smith, who researched NUT mid­line car­ci­noma, a rare, but highly lethal cancer found most often in the head and neck.

It makes me feel like there’s so much more I can accom­plish,” Smith added, noting his plans to study oncology in med­ical school so that he can be part of the “unbe­liev­able progress in cancer research.”

From Jan­uary through June, Smith worked along­side Dr. Jay Bradner, whose lab­o­ra­tory in Dana-Farber’s depart­ment of med­ical oncology studies gene reg­u­la­tory path­ways using the emerging dis­ci­pline of chem­ical biology, with a focus on cancer. Bradner is a col­league of North­eastern chem­istry and chem­ical biology asso­ciate pro­fessor John Engen, who helped Smith win the co-​​op.

Smith worked with Bradner and other col­leagues to treat NUT mid­line car­ci­noma cells with a com­pound devel­oped in the lab. They found that the mol­e­cule stops cancer cells from dividing and growing and turns them into nor­mally func­tioning cells.

It’s a long way off, but the com­pound could be used to treat NUT mid­line car­ci­noma, a cancer whose sur­vival rate is about six months after diagnosis.

It would be unbe­liev­able if it turned into a cancer therapy, and it def­i­nitely has the poten­tial after we do more tests,” said Smith.

There’s no limit to what Smith could accom­plish as a researcher or as a prac­ti­tioner, said Bradner, who called Smith “an extra­or­di­narily col­le­gial and pro­fes­sional young man” with a vast knowl­edge of chem­istry, cell biology and X-​​ray crystallography.

We have every oblig­a­tion to cul­ti­vate and encourage stu­dents like Billy,” said Bradner, who explained that Smith’s com­pas­sion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are uniquely suited for the mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary nature of modern med­ical care. “It warms my heart to think that he’s excited about oncology as a clin­ical focus.”

Smith is one of more than two dozen coau­thors on the paper, titled “Selec­tive Inhi­bi­tion of BET Bro­mod­omains.” The paper was pub­lished in the online edi­tion of Nature on Sep­tember 24.