by EMILY BEZERRA Staff Writer
Seventeen-year-old Angela Zhang from Cupertino, California, created a possible cure for cancer, which won her top individual honors and a $100,000 prize at the Siemens Foundation’s Annual High School Science Competition in Washington D.C. The high school senior designed a drug delivery system which would deliver the drug Salinomycin to cancer stem cells, which are responsible for initiating and driving cancer tumors. Her treatment combines therapy with a non-invasive imaging into a single platform. “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. So the major aim of the project was to personalize cancer medicine,” Zhang says. The high school senior began her research during her freshman year in 2009. Her biggest motivation to begin her research was her family. Her grandfather died from lung cancer, and her great-grandfather suffered from liver cancer. Zhang admits that her research was a little bit overwhelming at first, but she quickly got the hang of it. “I found that it almost became like a puzzle, being able to decode something,” she says. “Cure for cancer- a high school student. It’s just mind-boggling. I just cannot even begin to comprehend how she even thought about it or did this,” says Zhang’s chemistry teacher, Kavita Gupta. Zhang sets the bar high for current high school students. “It’s amazing how a seventeen-year-old girl has figured out what has been taking scientists YEARS to figure out, in a period of less than three years. If every teenager had Zhang’s mind, I can only imagine what kind of world we would live in,” says freshman Deanna Fisher. “If every high school student spent their time researching rather than watching TV or facebooking, we’d live in a more complex society,” says freshman Jeffrey Gardner. When Zhang’s theory was tested on mice, the cancer tumors almost completely disappeared. However, it will take years for scientists to be able to perform this on humans. “This is a Cinderella moment for a science nerd like me,” Zhang says. With the right research and technology, Zhang’s cure could be used in as little as 15 years. Her 1,000 hours of studying after school and on weekends has paid off in ways the “science nerd” could never imagine.