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Kim BrownKim Brown is the AAPS communications and social media manager in the Public Outreach Department

Vanna Hovanky, a student at James Bowie High School in Austin, will be one of the youngest presenters at the 2013 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Antonio taking place this week at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Hovanky’s poster presentation will focus on her study on bacteria-mediated gene therapy against colon cancer, which she conducted through the University of Texas at Austin’s High School Summer Research Academy, where she began more than two years ago.

Bacteria were engineered to express the beta-galactosidase protein, which has the ability to convert a non-toxic substance, Daun02, into an active cancer-killing drug. Various tests were carried out to determine the treatment’s effect on cell survival, and results indicated successful formation of the cancer-killing drug by the bacterial enzyme and the Daun02 substrate. The study demonstrates potential in using bacteria-mediated gene therapy for cancer treatment.

The next stage in Vanna’s research is developing a bacteria-mediated gene therapy treatment strategy more specific to colon cancer cells with fewer implications of side-effects. She’s currently focusing on using safer strains of lactic acid bacteria as gene therapy deliverers for tumor-selective anti-cancer proteins.

Vanna has had numerous successes at multiple science fairs, including the 2012 Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. A senior this year, she is sharing her passion for the sciences by launching a mentoring program for middle-school students called the Science Alliance Network.

To learn more about Vanna’s research, read her abstract in the 2013 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition MyAgenda Planner, no. M1064.