Mentors: Abigail Bracha and Arvind Ramanathan
Cancer studies suggest that there is a small population of tumor-initiating cells, known as cancer stem cells, that can give rise to the entire tumor mass and may be the cause for disease recurrence and metastasis. Therapeutic targeting of these cells is therefore important for cancer treatment. Cancer stem cells and normal stem cells may share a common metabolism, one in which the natural pathway for glucose breakdown, glycolysis, is shunted away from the mitochondria and pushed toward lactate production.
In the search for a novel mechanism for differentiation therapy of cancer stem cells, Julia and her mentors studied the effects on cell differentiation after inhibiting glycolysis with small molecules. At least two compounds in the study affected cell viability and three compounds had effects on differentiation. Future work with compounds that cause cancer stem cells to differentiate may lead to new cancer therapies.
Julia, a senior at Brookline High School, investigated the role of metabolism in the differentiation of mouse stem cells.