Nanoparticles in cancer drug delivery

Project leaders

Prof Maria Kavallaris (UNSW)

Big questions

How can we 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 in vivo? Can we develop delivery vehicles to target micrometastatic disease where blood vessels within the tumour are not well formed? What is the impact of changes to tumour stoma on nanoparticle penetration and drug delivery? How can we visualise nanoparticle uptake and interactions within complex cell systems and cells? How will nanotechnology for medical applications be perceived by the public?


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 (e.g. 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. Nanomedicine (medical application of nanotechnology) has enormous potential to revolutionise cancer therapy through the development of biocompatible and biodegradable drug and gene delivery systems. In order to develop effective delivery vehicles we need to understand the interaction of delivery agents with complex cell systems.