Mentors: Tzu-Hsiu Chen, Kumiko Tanaka, and Heidi Greulich
Growth factor receptors like EGFR and ERBB2 allow cells to receive growth signals such as Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) from the extracellular environment. In the presence of EGF, EGFR and ERBB2 promote cell proliferation and survival. Mutations in EGFR and ERBB2 are found in lung cancer, and many of these mutations confer oncogenic properties to cultured cells.
Parsa compared the efficacy of a new drug that targets the ERBB2 pathway to that of two other drugs already on the market and one drug currently undergoing clinical trials. He exposed cultured cells containing oncogenic mutations in ERBB2 to the different drugs and assessed their effects on cell survival. Parsa and his mentors found that the new drug was more effective at reducing cell survival than both drugs currently on the market. This promising new ERBB2 inhibitor had an efficacy comparable to that of the compound currently in clinical trials.
Parsa, a senior at Boston Latin Academy, examined the efficacy of small molecule inhibitors of proteins that are inappropriately activated in cancers.