Current therapies used to treat cancer in children are effective at killing cancer cells. However, these are generally highly toxic drugs that flood the entire body and damage healthy cells as well as cancer cells, leading to unwanted side effects. In fact, two-thirds of all children treated for cancer experience significant long-term treatment side effects.
To identify better ways of diagnosing and treating cancer, we need to understand the molecular alterations that are driving the growth and spread of cancer cells. Once these are known, we can target cancer more effectively.
Nanomedicine is the application of engineered materials at the nanometre scale (1 nanometre is 1/1000th the width of a human hair) to develop diagnostics and therapeutics. Because of its tiny scale and highly specialised nature, nanomedicine offers great potential to target cancer cells specifically, avoiding damage to healthy cells and therefore minimising side effects.
Our aim is to better understand the molecular causes of cancer in children and apply this knowledge to develop safe and effective nano-based diagnostics and therapeutics.
A major focus of our research is developing nanoparticles to act as highly efficient delivery vehicles, delivering drugs or gene silencing technologies directly to cancer cells. We are also developing 3D multicellular models of cancer that can be used to improve our understanding of cancer biology and ultimately to identify personalised treatment options for children with cancer.