Gene Therapeutics and Drug Delivery

We research the use of nanoparticles for drug delivery and the monitoring of drug response.

Team Leader

What we do

Our Group 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 collaboration 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. We also use advanced imaging techniques to monitor nanoparticle uptake by tumour cells.

Research Projects

Using RNA-based nanomedicines to inhibit tumour growth and metastases

Contact: A/Prof Josh McCarrollJMcCarroll@ccia.org.au

This project examines the therapeutic potential of chemically synthesised polymer-based nanoparticles to package therapeutic RNA drugs and deliver them to cancer cells, with the aim of inhibiting the expression of key genes that 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 models together with fluorescent-based real-time microscopy.

This project involves the use of a wide range of interdisciplinary chemistry and biology techniques, including:

  • Physicochemical characterisation of nanoparticles.

  • Cell culture.

  • Molecular and protein chemistry.

  • Pre-clinical in vivo models.

  • Tumour imaging.

Identifying novel biomarkers for monitoring treatment response in childhood cancer 

Contact: A/Prof Josh McCarrollJMcCarroll@ccia.org.au

A simple non-invasive test capable of detecting a cancer biomarker in blood (liquid biopsy), indicating the presence of a growing tumour during treatment, offers clinicians the potential to intervene much earlier to change a treatment protocol and avoid the onset of chemotherapy drug resistance (chemoresistance).

Cancer cells secrete tiny extracellular vesicles containing genes, miRNA and proteins into the blood. These vesicles are used by cancer cells to communicate with other cells in the body, and can regulate cell signalling mechanisms to promote tumour growth and chemotherapy resistance.

In this project, we aim to identify novel biomarkers released by childhood cancer cells in extracellular vesicles, so they can be used to measure chemoresistance. To do this, we will use nanoparticles we have developed in our lab to capture and measure biomarkers in preclinical in vitro and in vivo models.

Team

Postdoctoral Scientists

Dr Alice Wong

Dr Rosa Ignacio

Dr Helen Forgham

PhD Students

Anya Jensen

Shirley (Zerong) Ma

News & Blogs

Get in Touch

Do you have a question about our work? For any enquiries please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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