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Tiffany Somers-Edgar

Medicine medical equipment

Tiffany Somers-EdgarTiffany Somers-Edgar
Student
Pharmacology / Toxicology

Toxicology is the study of harmful effects of substances, but Tiffany hopes her studies will help heal people.

Now in her honours year, Tiffany is studying the effects of different drugs on cancerous cells.

"I really liked chemistry at school and I'd always been interested in medical research, so Pharmacology and Toxicology was a natural choice to make. Drugs can either help cells, and studying that is pharmacology, or harm them and that's toxicology."

Toxicology includes chemotherapy research because although the drugs fight cancer they do so by killing off cancerous cells. "Cancer research is really important and it will open quite a few doors once I graduate, especially if I go overseas, because it's such a widespread disease.

"It was hard to choose which of the specialist laboratories to do Honours in because they are all so fascinating, but cancer research had the edge. There are so many different types of cancer, and possibilities of what is causing cancer or how to treat it, so you are never going to get bored," she says.

Progress in the research lab is crucial as approximately 8,000 people die of cancer in New Zealand each year.

The toxicology cancer research lab focuses on breast cancer, as New Zealand had the sixth highest death rate in the developed world. Last year Tiffany won a summer scholarship and spent her holidays investigating how naturally occurring compounds affect breast cancer cells that do not respond to other drugs.

While the research had not gone as smoothly as hoped, Tiffany is philosophical.