17-year-old Cebuana wins international award for malunggay anti-cancer research
For her research detailing how malunggay seed extract can hamper the growth of cancer cells, 17-year-old Arianwen Rollan bagged the Qatar Foundation’s First Award for Research and Development in Medical Science at the world’s largest high school science competition, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).
Rollan, who attends school at the Cebu City National Science High School, shared that when her grandmother succumbed to cancer, it motivated her to delve into cancer research. After winning local awards for her studies, she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to enter the ISEF.
Her study involves conducting experiments on chick embryos. She discovered that malunggay seed extract inhibits the development of blood vessels.
In an interview with GMA News, the teen explained, “When there is a tumor, there will be a rapid development of blood vessels. The more blood vessels, there will be more nutrients supplied to the tumor. In this case, we need to inhibit the development of these blood vessels in order to cut off its source of nutrients.”
Malunggay trees are very common in the country and this is partly the reason Rollan decided to choose the plant as the focus of her studies. “Malunggay seeds are available anywhere here in the Philippines. In fact, it would be unusual if you don’t have the Malunggay tree in your own backyard especially in the rural areas.” She said.
On the other hand, cancer-treatment drugs currently on the market are “…very expensive and these also have fatal side effects. This inspired me to look for a natural agent against cancer.”
With the award, Rollan hopes to inspire other young people like her, as well as get the government’s attention to funding local research.
“I really hope that our government would establish a special organization with complete facilities that gives more attention to these kinds of projects… There are a lot of bright young minds in our country and the only problem is that there is no one to help them fund their research,” said the young scientist.