We’ve found some treatments that have great results for some cancers. We have ideas about other treatments, some that may work broadly against many cancers. Those ideas were widely discussed at the 2016 CED Life Science Conference.

So it was with great anticipation that we awaited the presentation by Katherine Yang. She led off the closing lunch session with her talk “Developing Cellularly Active Inhibitors of CARM1 for a New Anti-Cancer Treatment.”

OK. It wasn’t the title of the talk that we were waiting for. It was the fact that Katherine is currently a student at the North Carolina School of Science and Math. And every year, these students blow us away with their presentations.

That’s right. High school students. Doing research I couldn’t even do in college. Katherine was no exception.

Katherine started with a premise. There’s a molecule named CARM1 that regulates cell division. It’s more present in prostate and breast cancers.

As she investigated, she found that CARM1 needs another specific molecule to activate it. She started experimenting with some compounds that blocked that. So instead of getting lots of cancer cells, there were just a few mutated cells.

So she tested a number of compounds that she thought would work. She found one, and then tested to see what concentration of the compound worked best. And she found a clear winner.

But, there was still a barrier Katherine wanted to overcome. We didn’t know if the CARM1, the molecule that makes the cancer cells divide rapidly, was actually active in the cells.

So she developed a test that did that. A cell-based assay.

“This is really great, because so far nobody has been able to do this,” Katherine said.

As with any cancer research, there’s still a lot to do to prove Katherine’s idea, and to get it into a medicine. But it’s great to know that bright young people are working on this problem. And that they’re doing it here in North Carolina.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center

About the writer: Robin Deacle is Vice President, Corporate Communications, at the N.C. Biotechnology Center.