Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, an assistant professor at Tuskegee University, has taken on the challenge of defeating cancer with the help of a million-dollar grant.
AL reports that Dr. Green, one of fewer than 100 Black female physicists in America, was given the $1.1 million grant a few months ago to study technology that targets particular cancer cells. Green explained that while medicine helps most patients, it doesn’t work for all.
The disease played a major role in Green’s own life. The St. Louis native attended Alabama A&M University, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics with a concentration in fiber-optics. On a full scholarship, Green attended University of Alabama at Birmingham for her master’s and Ph.D. degrees. After her parents passed away, Green lived with her aunt and uncle, both of whom were diagnosed with cancer.
Taking time off to help her uncle with radiation and chemotherapy, she witnessed first-hand the effects of treatment. Green said her aunt decided not to undergo the same treatment due to fear of the side-effects. This experience, paired with her education, caused Green to look into the theory that lasers could treat cancer cells. Lasers have already been considered by biologists, but Green has been able to create a platform technology that isn’t custom-made for one type of cancer.
“I’m really hoping this can change the way we treat cancer in America,” said Green. “There are so many people who only get a three-month or six-month survival benefit from the drugs they take. Then three or six months later, they’re sent home with no hope, nothing else we can do. Those are the patients I want to try to save, the ones where regular medicine isn’t effective for them.”
The way the technology works is that an FDA-approved drug containing nanoparticles is injected into a cancer patient and causes the patient’s tumor to fluoresce (glow) under imaging equipment. The goal is for a laser to activate the nanoparticles by heating them.
“They are not toxic, so without the laser they won’t kill anything, and the laser by itself is harmless, so without the particles it won’t hurt anything,” said Green. “Because of their need to work together and their inability to work apart, I can insure that the treatment is only happening to the cancer cells we target and identify.”
In addition to her research, Green has made time to volunteer at Boys & Girls Clubs and speak to the youth about her work. Because her field doesn’t have a lot of African-American representatives, Green said she doesn’t want Black youth who are fascinated with science to feel discouraged about following their dreams.
“There are black female scientists who don’t get media exposure,” she said. “Because of that, young black girls don’t see those role models as often as they see Beyonce or Nicki Minaj. It’s important to know that our brains are capable of more than fashion and entertainment and music, even though arts are important.”
The young doctor added that the support of her family and friends helped her reach her goals. In the past, she has mentored young women who have gone on to flourish in science-related careers.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” she said. “I repeat that because a village of people helped raise me and instill values in me, and encouraged me to get to this point. I did not get here by myself. Because of that clarity, I know my responsibility to encourage and mentor the next generation.”
Her treatments have so far worked successfully on mice. Green’s studies prove Black Girl Magic transcends beyond the realms of entertainment and activism.
SOURCE: AL | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter