KANSAS CITY, Mo. — At 16 years old, one metro teen is working to change the world through cancer research.
She’s been working with doctors at Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute hoping to uncover new data in immunotherapy cancer treatments. Now, the Pembroke Hill junior is about to head to Spain to present her findings.
Katrina Case is unlike many teenagers. Instead of dreaming about how she might change the world when she’s older, she’s hoping to do it as soon as she can through cancer research.
“It’s such a tragic field, that there still needs to be learned about cancer in particular and how to help patients across the world,” Case said.
She’s always wanted to be a doctor just like her dad. Case started reading research papers when she was seven years old and started focusing on oncology about six years ago.
“I just started reading about it,” Case said. “I would print off articles about oncology, and I would just start highlighting each and every single one of those words I did not understand to try and get a better understanding of the oncology field.”
So the Pembroke Hill junior started working on an immunotherapy research project with a group of doctors at Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute. She had to learn a lot very quickly. Not just medical terms, but how data is gathered, digested and reviewed.
Dr. Janakaraman Subramanian, a medical oncologist at the hospital, worked with her directly on the project.
“She had the patience, and the willingness to do all the hard work,” Subramanian said. “Go to full time school and all her other extra curricular activities, and then she’ll show up right on time after school in my office, show me what she’s done so far, where the problems are where she couldn’t understand what’s happening and then we’ll work through that.”
She started a database with publicly accessible cancer patients information through the Cancer Genome Atlas.
From that data she was able to run a number of specific searches that showed what worked and what didn’t for specific kinds of cell mutations.
“I looked at how many mutations there are, and what kind of mutations they are, and how they’re seen by the immune system, and if this could be a prediction of the success of immunotherapy,” Case said.
“I see the talent in her, and I think she an do a lot of good things, particularly when it comes to cancer research,” Subramanian said.
“I hope that my research gives everyone the best chance at fighting a horrible disease such as cancer,” Case said.
On Wednesday, Case and her family are heading to present her findings in Spain at the European Society of Medical Oncology. She won the local BioNexus Health Challenge for her research in immunotherapy.
She’s also presented at the One Health Conference, the only high school or college student to do so.
Subramanian said they plan to keep working with her to uncover more findings to get her work published in a medical journal.
Over the summer Case traveled to Moldova in a State Department program, the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. It helps to accelerate and promote language development vital to national security.
She earned an eight week scholarship through the program to learn Russian at an all day program and lived as an exchange student with a Russian family.
Case also enjoys playing basketball, lacrosse and watching “The Office” on Netflix.