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Sisler student crushing cancer on all fronts

A Sisler High School student’s fight against cancer has turned personal.

Dylan Bucci, a Grade 12 student, made headlines in February, 2019 when he configured several Sisler servers to communicate with the IBM World Community Grid and provide processing power to the Krembil Research Institute, the research arm of Toronto Western Hospital.

That computing power went specifically to the Mapping Cancer Markers project, which aims to improve and personalize cancer treatment. Dylan was motivated to lend his computer skills to cancer research after seeing relatives and family friends deal with the disease.

Then, in the spring of 2020, Dylan noticed a painful bump on his left arm. At first, he and his family chalked the pain up to tendonitis, perhaps due to his increased computer use due to remote learning. When the pain didn’t diminish after at-home treatment, Bucci visited a doctor.

In August, Dylan was officially diagnosed with Stage 4 Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that occurs in bones or the soft tissue around bones. It is most common in children and teenagers.


“I was just scared to be honest,” Dylan said. “This is something I’ve always feared because there’s been a lot of cancer in my family. I’ve had nightmares about this kind of scenario happening. I was definitely rocked.”

“I’m going to try my hardest to beat it. And, the way things are looking, it looks like I’m going to beat this cancer.”

Let’s back up a bit. In May, 2019, Dylan and Sisler Cyber Academy teacher Robert Esposito traveled to Toronto to visit the Krembil Research Institute and meet Dr. Igor Jurisica and the Mapping Cancer Markers research team.

“It was a really great experience,” Dylan said. “I got to learn just what I was helping to contribute to. We did a tour of their labs and I got to see a lot of the equipment they use and how they use it. It was very interesting to say the least.”

Dylan and Esposito’s Toronto trip was extra special as it marked the first time IBM World Community Grid volunteers have visited a research institution to meet with scientists who use the program.


Then, in December, 2020, IBM World Community Grid set up a video conference call for Dylan and his family to speak with Dr. Godfrey Chan and Dr. Charles Keller, lead scientists working on the Smash Childhood Cancer project.

“I felt really good talking to them because I was learning a lot about what they’re trying to do about my type of cancer,” Dylan said. “It’s just a very comforting thought that there are so many people that are extremely smart working on this specific problem that not a lot of people experience. I feel really thankful that there are a lot of people working on it.”

Dylan’s cancer had metastasized to his hips, spine, pelvis, ribs, lungs and further up his arm. He is currently undergoing an aggressive course of chemotherapy, alternating between short and long rounds of treatment.

“His doctor has prescribed him a very long heavy dose of chemo for the first year, but he is surprising even them as his tumors are shrinking and quite drastically,” said Terri Bucci, Dylan’s mom.

“You really have to look at his arm quite closely to see where the tumor was. However, he will to go through some intensive surgery to repair the damage done by the sarcoma in his arm. Every other cancer has been shrinking from what we’ve seen in his follow-up scans. His doctor is really happy to see that because some people don’t do well with chemo, but he’s had limited side effects.”

“Between rounds he’s taking a little longer to recover every time. He’s getting a little chemo-fatigued,” said Michael Bucci, Dylan’s dad.

“At home we’ve just been focused on getting our home renovations done, which will be needed once we get to the surgical point of his recovery as he’s going to need more bed and rest time.”

After Dylan’s cancer diagnosis, Michael started a crowdfunding campaign to help fund accessibility-related renovations to their home.


“He’s OK now because the tumors are shrinking and causing less pain, but in the future Dylan may end up having to use a wheelchair on a regular basis,” Terri said.

“We’re in the process of adapting our home too him. We want to make it easier for him to get around and do things on his own with as little help as possible.”

The campaign has raised over $16,000 to date, with the Bucci family stretching those funds with DIY and volunteer labour.

“Realistically, we’re between $10,000 and $15,000 away from completing the project. We’ve exhausted everything we have at this point,” Michael said.

As far as school goes, Dylan is currently learning from home and at a slower pace due to his cancer treatment. He hopes to graduate from high school in 2022.

“I’ve only been taking two classes right now, because the treatment makes my brain foggy and it’s hard to focus,” Dylan said.

Michael and Terri hope their son’s story inspires other people to donate processing power to the World Community Grid.

“I’d say school administrators from school divisions should throw up the challenge to pitch in and help the Grid out,” Michael said. “Maybe they could even get school division rivalries going to see who can help out the most.”

“We’re currently all running it on our home computers. It’s literally just a program you can download at home,” Terri said.

“The more number-crunching ability they can have, the better it’s going to be for cancer research in the long run.”

As for Dylan, he hopes his story moves people to help others in any way they can.

“Anybody can put in the time and contribute to something they believe in,” Dylan said.

“There’s always something to fight for.”


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