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Making headlines in biochemistry

Healthcare News | 2012-03-04

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Angela Zhang

It is more common for those younger to look to the adults for answers and guidance. This is partly because those adults are the parents, grandparents, professors, and educators that have life experience behind them to provide insights for the world’s youth. When the tables are turned, it is nothing short of inspirational.

The Swiss army knife of cancer treatment

Recently, Angela Zhang, a 17-year-old high school senior from Cupertino, California, USA, was awarded the top prize, 100,000US dollars, from the Siemens Foundation for her innovative use of nanotechnology to eradicate cancer stem cells; more specifically, the design of image-guided, photo-thermal controlled drug releasing multifunctional nanosystem for the treatment of cancer stem cells. The Siemens Competition is a signature program which supports science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Her curiosity and ambition for this discovery began as a hobby when she was just a freshman and found out for herself that playing with these micro forms of nature was just like a puzzle – she was interested to see if her idea actually worked. She refers to her project as a “Swiss army knife” of cancer treatment.

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are responsible for initiating and driving tumor growth yet are often resistant to current cancer therapies. In her research, Angela Zhang aimed to design a CSC-targeted, gold and iron oxide-based nanoparticle with a potential to eradicate these cells through a controlled delivery of the drug salinomycin to the site of the tumor. The multifunctional nanoparticle combines therapy and imaging into a single platform, with the gold and iron-oxide components allowing for both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and photoacoustic imaging. This nanosystem could potentially help overcome cancer resistance, minimize undesirable side effects, and allow for real-time monitoring of treatment efficacy.

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Did You Know...

Launched in 1998, the Siemens Competition is the nation's premier science research competition for high school students. An all-time record of 2,436 students registered to enter the Siemens Competition this year for an unprecedented 1,541 projects submitted. Three hundred seventeen students were named semifinalists and 96 were named regional finalists, representing 21 states in the USA. Entries are judged at the regional level by esteemed scientists at six leading research universities which host the regional competitions: California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Notre Dame, and The University of Texas at Austin.

"It is a remarkable day for American innovation when our high school students do science research at this level," said Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, president of the Siemens Foundation. "I hope other students will follow their example and embrace STEM subjects with such vigor. These young innovators are poised to drive the next generation of advances in science and technology."

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