It’s no wonder she won a national science contest.
High school senior Angela Zhang, of Cupertino, Calif., has done research that could someday lead to a cure for cancer. Her work earned her $100,000 in a national Siemens science competition.
Zhang told ABC News, “I created a nanoparticle that’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife of cancer treatment in that it can detect cancer cells, eradicate the cancer cells and then monitor the treatment response.”
This is her proposed treatment: She mixes cancer medicine in a polymer that attaches to nanoparticles, which are then used to attach to cancer cells. Those nanoparticles can be detected on an MRI so doctors can see exactly where the tumors are.
She then thought that targeting the tumors with an infrared light would melt the polymers, release the medicine and kill the cancer cells — all while leaving the healthy cells intact. Et voila! It almost completely eradicated the tumors in mice.
It remains to be seen whether the method works in humans, and that process will take years, but the technique is original and promising on several levels.
As Tejal Desai, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Francisco, and a Siemens competition judge told MSNBC. “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 noninvasive imaging.”
Remarkably, Zhang worked on her research in her spare time. In ninth grade, she began reading doctorate level papers on bio-engineering, and the following year, she convinced a Stanford lab to give her access. Her junior year, she began conducting her own research.
Of her future, Zhang, whose top college picks are Stanford and Harvard, says in the above interview, “I’m excited to learn just everything possible,” she said. “Everything in the sciences — biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, even computer science — to make new innovations possible.”
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