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Student research focuses on drug delivery for cancer treatment

Cal State L.A.’s biochemistry major garners Phi Kappa Phi Travel Award

Pictured: Carolyn Kan.

“In 2014, there will be an estimated 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed and more than 580,000 cancer deaths in the U.S.,” according to the American Cancer Society.

Cal State L.A.’s biochemistry major Carolyn Kan, who is currently working in Cal State L.A. Professor Yong Ba’s laboratory, is hoping the innovative drug delivery method she’s seeking will help better treat the disease.

“Specifically, we want to determine whether the encapsulation of cancer drugs in nanoparticles (NP) can more efficiently direct drugs to tumor sites with less adverse side effects to non-targeted tissues,” said Kan, who recently garnered the 2014 Phi Kappa Phi Travel Award of $1,000 for this research.

”I am proud of Carolyn for her passion in biomedical research. This research is important because we are exploring life-saving methods for cancer patients,” said Professor Ba.

Kan chose to join Ba’s research team to receive more hands-on experience. She has always been interested in human anatomy and in becoming a physician.

“By being part of such insightful research, I feel empowered that I can make an impact,” she said.

Pictured: Professor Ba and Carolyn Kan.

Her research focuses on one kinase inhibitor drug, Sorafenib, which is known to block cell division pathways in renal cell carcinoma and hepatocellular carcinoma. Renal cell carcinoma is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults, whereas hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary liver cancer.

“In determining the optimal conditions and parameters in which to load Sorafenib into NPs, we are able to create an effective drug delivery system, wherein these nanoparticle carriers can then carry high levels of Sorafenib and deliver it to tumor tissues,” she explained.

She added that the main goal of these Sorafenib-encapsulated nanoparticles is to “lower the possible side effects that follow chemotherapy and increase the efficacy of the drug.”

An Honors College student, Kan is a member of the campus chapter of Golden Key and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. She is also president of the Chemistry & Biochemistry Club and vice president of the Early Entrance Club at Cal State L.A. Last year, she was an Associated Student, Inc. representative for the University’s College of Natural and Social Sciences. Off campus, she volunteers in the shadowing program at the California Hospital Medical Center.

For her innovative research, she is also one of only 10 Cal State L.A. students selected to represent the University at the 28th Annual CSU Student Research Competition to be held at CSU East Bay this May. Click here for info on the other student delegates.

Each year, the CSU Student Research Competition follows the annual Cal State L.A. Symposium on Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity. The aim of the campus symposium is to encourage all Cal State L.A. students—undergraduate and graduate in every discipline—to showcase their papers, projects and research endeavors. It also provides them an opportunity to network with administrators, faculty and peers.

“Ultimately, we will proceed with our research to conduct studies using mice models in collaboration with a City of Hope Cancer Research Group,” said Kan, who plans to apply to medical school upon completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Cal State L.A. this spring. “Biodegradable nanoparticles represent an exciting field of drug delivery, which hold tremendous promise as viable treatment options for cancer patients.”

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Last Update: 01/12/2016