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Student Scientist Presents Research Conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center at AJAS National Meeting

PHILADELPHIA (February 13, 2001) -- Pamela Boimel, a senior at Central High School in Philadelphia, will represent Pennsylvania as the leading state delegate to this year's American Junior Academy of Sciences (AJAS) conference in San Francisco, February 14 - 18th. During a special poster session for high school students, Boimel will present her research conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center, February 16th between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Under the guidance of Fox Chase researcher Richard Katz, Ph.D., Boimel has been studying retroviruses. Retroviruses are a unique class of viruses characterized by their method of replication. Using a specific enzyme, they can synthesize a strand of DNA that corresponds to their RNA, and can then integrate their genetic material into the chromosome of their host cell, making retroviral infection an efficient method of gene transfer.

Boimel's research focuses on ascertaining the point in the cell cycle when the retrovirus becomes permanently integrated into the host cell's DNA. Using innovative methods, Boimel and Katz constructed a retrovirus that programs the production of green fluorescent protein (GFP).

Once infected by the virus,the protein causes the cell to show-up bright green, thus allowing the presence of the virus to be more easily perceived. Its clear visibility makes it useful in determining the stage of infection in the cell.

If the cell is infected by the retrovirus containing GFP before the cell replicates its DNA, both daughter cells will be infected by the retrovirus. If the cell is infected after it replicates its DNA, only one daughter cell will be infected by the retrovirus, and consequently 50 percent of the daughter cells will be infected. Research advances in retroviral integration are particularly valuable, as retroviruses are an important class of cancer-causing viruses that affect humans and animals. By determining the stage of infection, Boimel's collaborative research at Fox Chase furthers the conception of retroviral integration, taking researchers a step forward in preventing infection as well as developing therapies that would combat retroviral infection.

Dr. Katz says that working with Boimel has been scientifically productive. "She is a gifted student and we are quite fortunate to have her in our group. She contributes significantly to our research program."

Boimel expressed excitement at the opportunity to present at the AJAS conference. She describes the experience of working with her mentor as incredible. "Dr. Katz has been a constructive force in shaping my scientific attitude. Working with him has given me an in-depth view of how to carry out a research project." Boimel says having the opportunity to be involved in such an advanced study has inspired her to pursue research in the medical field. "It is rewarding to know that my research can make a difference." Participation at the American Junior Academy of Sciences conference is determined by respective state science academies. The Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science (PJAS) selected Boimel as the top student scientist during the state competition in May 2000.

The PJAS is a statewide organization of 7th through 12th grade students who show more than usual interest in the fields of mathematics, science or computer science. Students wishing to present their research for PJAS competition are grouped into units with other students of similar grade and category of research and are evaluated by a small team of judges. Students do not bring their project; rather they give timed oral presentations about their project after which judges may ask questions for a timed period. Students are not in competition with each other. Rather, they are evaluated on how well they succeed in fulfilling the judging criteria.

Boimel graduates this spring from Central High School. Apart from her studies and volunteer work at Fox Chase Cancer Center, Boimel sings, plays the flute, creates art and attends Jewish Community High School where she is pursuing Jewish studies. She has received numerous science and art awards, and her art has been on display in art shows at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and City Hall.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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