A Kanata teen whose research uncovered some of the inner-workings of a cancer-fighting drug finished fifth out of 13 high school students competing at a national biotechnology competition in Ottawa today.
Romina Hassanzadeh worked with Ottawa hospital researchers and found the drug echinomycin — known to prevent production of a protein found in cancer cells — and also helped to slow production of telomerase enzymes, which are linked to the rapid spread of cancer.
She found human breast cancer cells treated with echinomycin had substantially lower levels of telomerase enzymes.
Hassanzadeh, a 17-year-old student at All Saints Catholic High School, said the work was closer to her heart because her mother's aunt died from breast cancer. She worked on the research in the evenings after school.
"I have always enjoyed doing science and I was learning these different methodologies in class this year," said Hassanzadeh. "And then after school I was able to go to the lab and do these experiments myself."
Hassanzadeh competed Monday in the national Sanofi BioGenius Challenge after earlier winning the eastern Ontario regional contest.
Rick Levic, the executive director of Bio-Science Education Canada, said the program aims to encourage innovation.
"The motivation of this program is to inspire more young people to tackle some of the world's more pressing problems, and making sure that Canada is part of that," said Levic.
Hassanzadeh is looking ahead as she has been accepted into the Biomedical Science program at the University of Ottawa on a scholarship.