In 2022, Neuroblastoma Australia announced the amazing grant winners from the second Neuroblastoma Australia Grants Round.

This is why we work so hard and do everything we do - to raise funds for the very best research with the goal of ultimately getting a cure for all children diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Lucy Jones - CEO, Neuroblastoma Australia 

Professor Maria Kavallaris, from Children's Cancer Institute, and Dr. Daniel Carter from University of Technology Sydney both received $175,000 from Neuroblastoma Australia for work undertaken in 2023.

Professor Maria Kavallaris

Improving Treatment Outcomes with Nanoparticle Therapy

Professor Maria Kavallaris will work with her team to develop targeted treatments using nanoparticles, as she explains,

"Our team have been at the forefront of developing nanoparticles to deliver therapeutics to cancer cells including neuroblastoma. Lipid-based nanoparticles loaded with gene silencing drugs are clinically approved to treat rare genetic liver diseases.

However, these nanoparticles do not have the capability to selectively target tumour cells which can lead to poor tumour penetration and off-target side-effects. In an important advance, we have developed a new way to target lipid-based nanoparticles loaded with gene silencing drugs that can ‘silence’ cancer-promoting genes in the tumour cells and block their growth.

Our approach will use antibodies attached to the surface of lipid nanoparticles that bind to proteins expressed on the surface of neuroblastoma cells. This will facilitate entry of the gene silencing nanotherapy into the tumour cells, avoiding healthy cells. These studies have enormous potential for personalised treatment of neuroblastoma to increase patient survival.”

Dr. Daniel Carter

Targeting Tumour Profiles with Genetic Barcoding

Dr Daniel Carter's research also looks to tailoring treatment options, however, Dr. Carter will study the potential to target specific tumour cells,  as he explains,

"A major problem hindering successful therapy in neuroblastoma is that cancer cells of a given tumour have differing genetic profiles, and therefore differing sensitivity to chemotherapy. Treatments fail in neuroblastoma because minor cancer cell populations are naturally drug resistant due to their unique genetic makeup, and these cells ultimately regrow as a highly drug-resistant ‘relapsed’ tumour.

To identify key genetic features that allow resistance to chemotherapy, we will use novel genetic barcoding technology, that allows us to track individual tumour cells when they are exposed to anti-cancer drugs in the lab. 

We will undertake a drug screen assessing how tens of thousands of neuroblastoma cells respond to hundreds of different anticancer drugs using this technology. Using the unique cellular responses for each drug, we will then be able to customise optimal drug cocktails that are individualised for each tumour. 

Our plan is to ultimately apply these findings as a novel single-cell diagnostic method that allows for better prediction of patient response to chemotherapy and optimised drug treatment approaches individualised for each patient."

Neuroblastoma Australia CEO, Lucy Jones, was delighted to receive so many quality applications during the process,  

We received 12 applications from researchers all over Australia and our world-class Scientific Advisory Board were impressed by the high standard of research. There were many projects we wanted to fund so choosing two was very difficult but we are hoping with more fundraising in 2023 we will be in a position to fund more. We are confident that the work we are supporting will provide significant insights into neuroblastoma and help us get closer to a cure. Lucy Jones - CEO, Neuroblastoma Australia 

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