Dr. Stoyanova is interested in developing new cancer detection approaches and therapeutic strategies for late-stage cancers. The ultimate goals of the Stoyanova lab are to improve the early diagnosis and prognosis of clinically significant epithelial cancers and to guide the development of novel and effective therapeutic strategies for metastatic cancers.

Exciting research project or any highlights in your lab.

A major research interest of Dr. Stoyanova’s lab is the development of targeted therapies for cancer, including small molecule inhibitors, radiopharmaceuticals, antibody-based therapies, identifying new combination and sequential therapies for metastatic cancers as well as, development of new optical imaging agents for surgical guidance for precise excisions of metastatic lesions. Dr. Stoyanova is also interested in early cancer diagnosis and prognosis as well as in prediction and monitoring treatment responses to cancer therapies. The lab is focusing on the discovery and development of new tissue, blood, and urine-based biomarkers for clinically significant prostate cancer and other epithelial cancers. The Stoyanova lab is also interested in developing new positron emission tomography (PET) imaging modalities for epithelial cancers to improve cancer early detection and monitor treatment responses. The current focus of the Stoyanova lab are adult cancers (prostate, breast, and lung) and childhood cancer, neuroblastoma.

How did you decide on your focus of research?

I was born and raised in Bulgaria, and I have been interested in cancer research since my teenage years. When I was 16, I was puzzled about how a disease starts from our own cells and manages to spread throughout our body. I decided if I want to make a difference, I should dedicate my work to advancing cancer research and encourage others to do so. I realized that I needed to take a significant step forward and move to the United States, a leading country in cancer research, to achieve my dreams and contribute to the advancement of science. In 2001, I moved to the US on my own and started my scientific career. What is most fulfilling about leading an academic research lab is being able to think about something, come up with an idea, and run to the lab to test the idea. To have that kind of freedom is incredible. To have an idea and be able to actually test it — to me, is very fulfilling.

What brought you to UCLA?

UCLA has an exceptionally strong community and research focused on cancer therapeutics, cancer biology, cancer imaging and theranostics. In addition, UCLA has a highly collaborative work environment. I did a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA between 2009-2015 and I greatly enjoyed my time at UCLA. My return to UCLA feels like coming back home. I love the dynamic and highly productive research environment; the exceptional colleagues and students UCLA offers and the breathtaking sunsets on the beach in LA.

Do you have a personal motto?

Set a goal and stay focused. Staying focused on your goal can get you anywhere you want to be, it is just a matter of time.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the lab?

I love to bike, run, and walk on the beach. I bike miles and miles on the beach bike path. I enjoy looking at the sunset on the beach with my family.