HZDR’s PhD student wins competition for science communication

Online News - 19.03.2014

With her presentation about nanoparticles for cancer diagnostics Karina Pombo-Garcia succeeded at FameLab Hesse on Friday, March 14. The HZDR’s PhD candidate from the Virtual Institute NanoTracking will now participate in the German finals of the global competition for science communication, which will take place on May 10 in Bielefeld. There she will meet the other winners of twelve regional preliminary decisions. If Pombo-Garcia also convinces the jury in the North Rhine-Westphalian city, the international final of FameLab 2014 at the Cheltenham Science Festival (June 3 to 8) in England will be open for her.

To prepare herself for the competition, Pombo-Garcia – as the “Hessian” winner – will take part in a professional media training worth 1,300 euros, which is organized by the British Council and given by a BBC journalist. However, as the result in Kassel has shown, the PhD candidate is already very good at presenting science to the public. Only equipped with an apple, a piece of aluminum foil and small signs she was able to explain to the jury and audience within three minutes, how nanoparticles could facilitate tumor diagnosis.

The doctoral student and her colleagues from the Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research at HZDR work together with national and international groups on ultra-small particles that combine all the elements that are needed for the detection of tumour cells. The nanoparticles carry contrast agents, radioactive substances as well as fluorescent tags and targeting molecules. Since they may almost exclusively accumulate in the tumour due to surface modification, it will be possible to track affected areas not only by MRI and PET scans, but to make them visible even during surgery.

The development of such tailor-made nanomaterials for cancer diagnosis and therapy control of cancer is explored at HZDR in the Virtual Institute NanoTracking, which is headed by Dr. Holger Stephan. The goal is to design nanoparticles that move quickly and virtually exclusively to tumour cells in order to make them recognizable. Currently, the applicability of novel nanomaterials is under investigation, whereas strategies are developed, which focus on prevention of nanoparticle recognition and elimination by the body.