Gang (Kevin) Zhou
Gang (Kevin) Zhou is a second year PhD student at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, working in the Storr Liver Centre. His research project aims to kill liver cancer cells from the inside out, by targeting liver cancer stem cells.
Existing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are far from curative and often patients experience the return of their cancer. These treatments attack cancer cells from the outside, but a relatively new idea is to target the cancer stem cells which are believed to be the root cause of the cancer.
Using a chemical antibody (known as aptamer) combined with an anti-cancer drug, Kevin is working to first penetrate the cancer stem cell wall so the drug can access the stem cells and kill the entire cancer cells from the root. His initial tests have been extremely promising and the drug appears to be specifically toxic to the cancer stem cells but only have minimal toxicity for the surrounding normal cells.
Kevin is a hard-working, self-motivated problem solver. As this is a very new area of cancer research he has needed to do a lot of scientific reading to get ideas for his project and overcome roadblocks.
Storr Liver Centre has a long collaboration with the School of Medicine of the Deakin University. Kevin visited Deakin University to learn some of the specialised state-of-the-art technology from has applied the new technology he learnt to his experimental work at the Storr Liver Centre at the Westmead Institute.
For example, Kevin can see the proof of his successful initial in-vitro testing under the confocal microscopy and live-cell imaging microscope. Here is it is possible to watch if the drug-carrying aptamer can enter the cancer cells, and with the live-cell imaging tool, the activity of the cancer cells can be monitored. Kevin has shown that when the cancer cells were treated with aptamer carrying the chemo drug, the aptamer-drug combination can penetrate the cancer stem cell walls, causing the stem cells to stop moving and die.
Kevin’s project is funded by the NSW Cancer Council, a good indication that if successful his research results could be applied to other cancers.