Nanoparticles in cancer drug delivery
Signature Project

Project leader

Professor Maria Kavallaris (UNSW)

The big questions

  • How can we best develop biocompatible and effective
    delivery vehicles for drug or RNAi therapeutics for aggressive cancers?
  • How do the biophysical characteristics such as size, shape or charge influence how effective a drug delivery vehicle will be inside a tumour?
  • Can we improve our understanding of the impact of changes to tumour stroma on nanoparticle penetration and drug delivery?
  • Can we develop delivery vehicles to target micrometastatic disease where blood vessels within the tumour are not well formed?

Research outline

Cancer remains a significant clinical problem and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in society. It is well established that the development of resistance to therapies (eg. chemotherapy, radiotherapy) is a major clinical challenge. The propensity of solid tumours to metastasise to distant organs poses another major barrier to cure, since metastatic cancer cells are often refractory to therapy. For both childhood and adult cancers, it is imperative that we develop ways of more effectively treating malignancies that are refractory to standard therapies. Current chemotherapies are generally given systemically and this causes toxicity to healthy normal tissues and rapid clearance of the chemotherapy.

As chemotherapy is given at maximum tolerated doses, even small levels of chemotherapy resistance within a tumour means doses for patients cannot be increased due to unacceptable toxicity. Nanomedicine (medical application of nanotechnology) has enormous potential to revolutionise cancer therapy through the development of biocompatible and biodegradable drug and gene delivery systems. Through development of effective drug delivery vehicles, nanomedicine has the potential to lead to increased drug delivery to tumours and improve treatment outcomes. The extensive expertise within the CBNS from nanomaterial design, biodistribution, biological and animal models places us in an ideal environment to advance our knowledge of nanomaterial design for medical applications.