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RESEARCH OVERVIEW

The Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory is a multidisciplinary group that focuses on the development of novel approaches to target cancers that are currently refractory to treatment and associated to poor outcome, such as triple negative breast cancers and serious ovarian cancers. At present, there are no targeted approaches to combat these tumors, with chemotherapy and radiation the only treatment options. The laboratory generates novel functionalised molecules able to specifically target these tumors with minimal toxicity to normal cells. Our emphasis is in advanced stage metastatic tumors, which quasi invariably develop resistance. Ultimately we wish to revert the behaviour of metastatic cells by sensitising these treatment resistant tumors to chemotherapy regimes.

The lab deploys state-of-the art precision medicine tools to specifically re-engineer the genome and the epigenome of cancer cells, to restore mitotically hereditable (normal-like) features. Tools currently employed by the lab members include artificial genome engineering proteins (e.g made of zinc fingers, CRISPR/dCas9 backbones) attached to a library of effector domains for epigenomic editing.

The lab has patented and developed interference peptide technology, small synthetic and functionalised cell-penetrating peptides programmed to inhibit oncogenic transcription factors overexpressed in metastatic cells. By blocking or inhibiting essential protein-protein interactions we promote potent and selective apoptosis in metastatic breast cancer cells while sensitizing these tumors to chemotherapy regimes. Lastly, we collaborate with nanotechnology investigators (S. Iyer, UWA & Leaf Huang, UNC) to encapsulate these agents using targeted nanoparticles.

LATEST NEWS

Cancer researcher inspired by nature to kill cancer

A WA discovery made global news when venom from honeybees was found to kill aggressive breast cancer cells. Associate Professor and Wesfarmers Fellow, Dr Pilar Blancafort, from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, co-published these findings with her PhD student Dr Ciara Duffy and laboratory co-workers a few months…

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Honeybee venom kills breast cancer cells

Venom from honeybees found to kill aggressive breast cancer cells – Australian research published in Nature Precision Oncology  Honeybee venom induces cancer cell death in hard to treat triple-negative breast cancer with minimal effect on healthy cells. Using the venom from 312 honeybees and bumblebees in Perth Western Australia, Ireland and England, Dr Ciara Duffy from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and…

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Activating the silent assassin within to fight breast cancer

Perth researcher wins $1.4m grant to wake up an immune system corrupted by cancer FAST FACTS: Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women globally 14 million women have breast cancer Half a million deaths are recorded annually Nearly half of all deaths are caused by triple negative…

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