A budding cancer researcher is already receiving top billings
By Bob Woods
Photography by Kiko Ricote
kye Montoya, a Ph.D. student in the Class of 2024, was surprised to learn that she hails from the same Atlanta suburb as world-famous actor Julia Roberts. Yet Smyrna, Georgia, may well someday roll out the red carpet for Montoya, celebrating her role as a preeminent cancer researcher.
Montoya began setting her life’s stage when she was just 5. “I remember being asked what I wanted to be, and I said a doctor,” she recalled, adding that math and science always came easily to her. That acumen followed her to high school, where she participated in a biomedical research program, and then to Kennesaw State University’s Wellstar School of Nursing. “Once I started working with patients in the hospital, I realized I was way more fascinated with science and research than in medicine, and it’s just skyrocketed from that point,” she said of the decision to adjust her career path.
In 2020, Montoya landed at the Miller School as a Ph.D. candidate in cancer biology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Last fall, she received the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA for Individual Predoctoral Fellows (F31) Award, and she is currently a full-time researcher in a laboratory run by Justin Taylor, M.D., that studies blood cancer resistance mechanisms and translational patient therapies. Montoya co-authored an article published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine that reported the results of a clinical trial of the lab’s findings. “Following those patients and seeing the real-world application of what we’re working on is incredibly insightful and fulfilling,” she said.
As committed as Montoya is to her research, she recently got married. She and her husband enjoy exploring Miami’s vibrant restaurant scene, game nights with friends, and catching the latest Marvel superhero movies. Montoya may not star in one of those action flicks, but this pride of Smyrna will be heroically fighting to improve people’s lives.