Samantha Kinley is a fourth-year chemistry honours student working under the supervision of Steve Westcott. Kinley’s research involves synthesizing platinum complexes for anti-cancer testing. Kinley is working with cisplatin, a platinum complex that is used for its cancer fighting potential.
One of Westcott’s research focuses is on biologically active metal and boron compounds, such as platinum. Platinum complexes are powerful anticancer agents, and boron compounds are being designed for their potential anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-cancer properties.
The past thirty years have shown a rise in research for platinum chemistry, but there are lots of issues associated with it. Cisplatin was the first platinum complex known for its anticancer abilities. Although platinum complexes such as cisplatin are very effective in eliminating cancer cells, it does not specifically target cancerous cells over healthy ones.
Kinley has been synthesizing platinum compounds using more complex, bulky ligands such as imophophines. These iminophosphines contain a biologically active boronate ester group, and by having this larger ligand, it makes the platinum complex more specific in targeting cancer cells. The theory behind this is that bulkier groups will hopefully show preference for DNA over other biomolecules (such as proteins), and will lead to increased intracellular accumulation of the drug.
Kinley has spent the summer synthesizing the compounds. After completion of one more compound, testing can begin on breast and lung cancer cells. She is hoping that the synthesized complexes will be more accurate in terms of targeting the cancer cells.
Working with Westcott has been a positive experience for Kinley.
“He wants his students to do well,” Kinley explains, “Everything he does is for the benefit of his students. He is the most selfless person ever.”
Kinley has always been interested in pursuing chemistry, but had her heart set on McGill. It wasn’t until she visited Mount Allison and realized the opportunities a smaller school could provide.
“At a larger school, it would be harder to get to know my professors. Here at Mt. A, I knew most by second year,” Kinley said, “At a larger school I’d be begging for research opportunities. Here, Westcott approached me and asked if I could work in his lab.”