Angela Zhang, a high school senior from Cupertino, California, seems like your typical 17-year-old. She’s just learning to drive, and focusing on college applications to Stanford and Harvard. And in December, she won $100,000 dollars in the prestigious national Siemens competition for research that could help cure cancer.
In case you missed Care2’s initial post about Zhang’s win, here’s what her research involves. The proposed treatment would involve cancer medication mixed into a polymer, which is then attached to a nanoparticle. The nanoparticles would attach to the tumor, where they could be easily detected on an MRI, allowing doctors to identify its location. Targeting the tumor with infrared light would melt the polymer and release the medication, directly targeting the cancer cells, but leaving surrounding healthy tissue intact. The process has almost completely eradicated tumors in mice, but it remains to be seen if it will work in humans.
This is how a Siemens judge characterized the system in a press release announcing the winners of the competition:
“Angela created a nanoparticle that is like a Swiss army knife of cancer treatment,” said competition judge Dr. Tejal Desai, Professor, Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, University of California, San Francisco. “She showed great creativity and initiative in designing a nanoparticle system that can be triggered to release drugs at the site of the tumor while also allowing for non-invasive imaging. Her work is an important step in developing new approaches to the therapeutic targeting of tumors via nanotechnology.”
What’s really amazing about this is the fact that Zhang researched everything in her spare time. In 9th grade, she started reading bio-engineering research – papers written on a doctorate level. After that, she managed to talk her way into a Stanford lab, and eventually began doing her own, original research in her junior year. The research that went into her paper took an estimated 1,000 hours total.
In this interview with CBS News, Angela talks about her research:
Congratulations to Angela for her amazing achievement – we can’t wait to see what the future holds for this brilliant young scientist!
Photo credit: fotosinteresantes