The University College Dublin Summer Student Research Awards 2011 Gold Medal is the latest achievement of INTI College Sarawak alumnus Valerie Toh Wen Ting.
Currently in the third year of the MB BCh BAO (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Obstetrics) degree programme at University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland, Valerie, a former SMK St. Teresa student, was actively involved in biomedical research in the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, Ireland's largest biosciences research institute. She worked with a group of senior post-doctoral scientists on a research project entitled 'The Fate of Chemoresistance in Epithelial Ovarian Cancer (EOC)' funded by the Irish Cancer Society.
In Ireland, ovarian cancer is regarded as the fourth most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. The first line treatment of ovarian cancer is surgery followed by chemotherapy with paclitaxel (Taxol®) and cisplatin. Most patients reportedly fail to respond to chemotherapy resulting in disease recurrence. Valerie and her research team members are particularly interested in the regulation mechanism of the expression levels of Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins and their impact on chemoresistance. The abnormally high levels of PcG proteins are associated with uncontrollable growth of tumours and acquired chemoresistance.
Applying various laboratory techniques, Valerie's team came to a conclusion that the responses of the resistant ovarian cancer cells to chemotherapy may be improved with a combinatorial treatment of TSA (a drug known for its potential to control the growth of tumours) and the chemotherapy drug, Taxol®. Further studies are required to look at the efficacy of the combinatorial treatment in a clinical setting. The research findings will be published in the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences.
Valerie was selected to present her research poster at the 11th Annual UCD Conway Festival of Research and Innovation. She was also selected for the Summer Student Research Awards (SSRA) Scientific Research competition and SSRA Research Communication competition. From a field of about 60 competitors, Valerie won the SSRA 2011 Gold Medal for Excellence in Research. Her achievement is in addition to the Merit scholarship awarded to her by INTI earlier to pursue her Cambridge A Level studies in Kuching and her subsequent A Level results which were excellent.
The Cambridge A Level is a 'gold standard' qualification that opens the doors to higher studies in Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Actuarial Science, Accounting, Finance, Engineering, Law and other areas at prestigious universities around the world. It has enabled INTI students to gain entry into top universities including Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Stanford, The University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore among others.