Our research has a major focus on developing and optimising the use of non-viral nanoparticles to act as highly efficient delivery vehicles for RNA-based drugs (siRNA, miRNA mimics and inhibitors) to tumour cells. These drugs hold great promise as a new and innovative therapy to treat childhood cancer. For example, siRNA can be designed to inhibit the expression of any target gene including those that are difficult to inhibit using chemical agents and which play an important role in promoting aggressive tumour growth and chemotherapy drug resistance.

We also have an interest in using nanoparticles to capture and measure tumour biomarkers in liquid biopsies to help monitor chemotherapy drug response and tumour relapse. This research is highly interdisciplinary and involves collaborations with cancer biologists, clinicians and nanotechnologists. To help advance our nanomedicines to the clinic we use in vitro and in vivo models which closely resemble the human clinical setting combined with advanced imaging techniques to monitor nanoparticle uptake into tumour cells.

    • The use of RNA-based nanomedicines to inhibit tumour growth and metastases

      CONTACT

      This project will examine the therapeutic potential of tiny chemically synthesised polymer-based nanoparticles to package therapeutic RNA drugs and deliver them to cancer cells to inhibit the expression of key genes which promote tumour growth and metastases. To assess the ability of our nano-drugs to enter tumour cells and inhibit their growth we use pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo models.

      Cutting-edge fluorescent-based real-time microscopy is also used to monitor nanoparticle uptake and trafficking inside tumour cells. This project will use a wide range of interdisciplinary chemistry and biology techniques including: physicochemical characterisation of nanoparticles, cell culture, molecular and protein chemistry and pre-clinical in vivo models combined with tumour imaging.

    • Identification of novel biomarkers for monitoring treatment response in childhood cancer

      CONTACT

      A simple ‘non-invasive’ blood test which could rapidly detect a cancer biomarker in blood that indicates the presence of a growing tumour during treatment, has potential to allow clinicians to intervene much earlier to change a treatment protocol and avoid the onset of chemotherapy drug resistance. Cancer cells secrete tiny extracellular vesicles which contain genes, miRNA and proteins into the blood. These vesicles are used by cancer cells to communicate with neighbouring or distant cells in the body, and can regulate cell signalling mechanisms to promote tumour growth and chemotherapy resistance.

      We have developed nanoparticles which can be used to capture and detect the contents released by cancer extracellular vesicles. This project aims to identify novel biomarkers released by extracellular vesicles from childhood cancer cells to be used to measure chemoresistance. The biomarkers will be captured and measured using our novel nanoparticles in pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo models.

Staff List

Team Leader

Associate Professor Joshua McCarroll

Postdoctoral scientist

Dr Alice Wong

PhD students

Helen Forgham

Shirley (Zerong) Ma

Honours student

Anya Jensen