17-year-old wins 100k for creating cancer-killing nanoparticle

At the age of 17 I was paying attention in college, but still enjoying the student life as much as studying towards my career goals. What I wasn’t doing was working at the cutting edge of cancer treatment and developing a potential cure.

Angela Zhang is, and she’s just been awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize in the Individual category of the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Her project was entitled “Design of Image-guided, Photo-thermal Controlled Drug Releasing Multifunctional Nanosystem for the Treatment of Cancer Stem Cells.”

Her creation is being heralded as a “Swiss army knife of cancer treatment.” Zhang managed to develop a nanoparticle that can be delivered to the site of a tumor through the drug salinomycin. Once there it kills the cancer stem cells. However, Zhang went further and included both gold and iron-oxide components, which allow for non-invasive imaging of the site through MRI and Photoacoustics.

As to why she chose this as her project, Zhang explains that she was surprised when looking at the survival rates of patients receiving cancer treatment. As cancer stem cells are resistant to many forms of cancer treatment, it seemed like an area worth focusing on. Her nanoparticle is award-winning due to the fact it has the potential to overcome cancer resistance while offering up the ability to monitor the effects of the treatment in real-time using existing imaging techniques.

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