A teenage intern in NCI's Center for Cancer Research is one of three high school students who earned top honors at the Intel International
Science and Engineering Fair held recently. Each received an Intel Foundation Young Scientist
Award and a $50,000 college scholarship.
Dayan "Jack" Li has been interested in "the mysteries of human anatomy" since he was a young child. The 17-year-old Eleanor Roosevelt High School senior from Greenbelt, Md., who interned at NIH last summer
and fall, dove right into an area that's been puzzling scientists for years: how to prevent cancer.
Li has been working in Dr. David Roberts's lab and returns there this summer.
"Specifically, I looked at tumor markers in endothelial
cells," he explains. Working with cells from the inside of human umbilical veins, Li examined the effects of thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) and nitric oxide (NO) on angiogenesis. The goal: to determine how to inhibit this process-
essential to tumor growth and metastasis-
and thus inhibit cancer.
Past studies in mice in Roberts's lab had shown a TSP-1-induced NO functional switch in endothelial
cells that was of physiological importance.
For his project last summer, Li used real-time PCR to study several genes that could be regulated downstream of this switch in human endothelial cells. His work showed that some of these genes are regulated by the TSP-1-induced NO functional switch in human endothelial
cells and could be responsible for its effects on angiogenesis. "Such a finding clarifies NO's friend-foe reputation and the contradictory tumor responses to TSP-1-releasing drugs, thus prompting a re-evaluation of the drugs to make them safer and more efficient," said Li.
The Intel fair is the world's largest pre-college celebration of science. Held annually in May, it brings together nearly 1,500 students from more than 40 nations to compete for scholarships,
tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize-a $50,000 college scholarship.