Sometimes amazing developments in cancer research come from state-of-the-art medical research facilities and sometimes they come from more unexpected places, like Cuba or a high school student. This week, the Siemens Foundation and George Washington University announced that 17-year old Angela Zhang won the $100,000 grand prize in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology for her innovative cancer research.
Angela Zhang is a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California. She won the prize for her design of image-guided, photo-thermal controlled drug releasing multifunctional nanosystem for the treatment of cancer stem cells. Zhang has spent more than 1000 hours researching and developing her nanoparticle since 2009.
The Siemens Foundation announcement of the prize explains more about her work:
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 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.
Zhang’s nanoparticle is being heralded as the “Swiss army knife of cancer treatment”, according to Dr. Tejal Desai, one of the competition’s judges.
In addition to Zhang’s individual prize, there was also a team prize of $100,000 given to Ziyuan Liu and Cassee Cain for their work on human walking patterns. Other finalist individuals and teams won scholarships ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 for work in mathematics, chemistry, biology, astrophysics, biochemistry, and bioengineering.
Photo credit: fotosinteresantes on flickr