An Australian Rotary Health funded PhD Scholar is joining the fight against cancer with her research on Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer).

Hyo Jeong (Minnie) Kim from Bond University was awarded a Rotary Club of Sandy Bay ‘Michael Chivers’ PhD Scholarship this year to look at Sialyltransferase (ST) Inhibitors, which may be used in the treatment of Cholangiocarcinoma.

Cholangiocarcinoma patients have been reported to have high levels of sialic acids – a diverse family of sugar units that are found across the surface of a human cell. Due to their position on the cell surface, it participates in various human body processes such as when cancer cells spread across the body.

“Sialyltransferase is a protein responsible for attaching sialic acids to the cell surface. Therefore, when ST activity is increased, the sialic acids level also increases,” Hyo Jeong said.

“ST inhibitors are substances that prevent ST from attaching sialic acids to the cell surface. High level of sialic acids on the cell surface is known to be associated with the development of cancer. The inhibitors of ST are thus of high medicinal interest as it could be considered potential drug targets for cancer therapies such as those used in the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma.”

To date, no research has explored sialyltransferase inhibitors on cholangiocarcinoma, so this project aims to design, synthesise and evaluate the ST inhibitors.

“The findings of this project may one day help lead to a treatment option for cholangiocarcinoma patients in some cases.”

Approximately 38.4% of Australian men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Cholangiocarcinoma is a rare but aggressive form of cancer with a survival of less than 12 months following diagnosis.

“I believe this project can make a potential difference in the fight against cancer. And this is the reason why I have decided and passionate to research in this area – making a positive contribution to the world,” Hyo Jeong said.

We wish Hyo Jeong all the best with her research.