Activating the silent assassin within to fight breast cancer
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.