Dr Nicky Farrer has been awarded a L’Oreal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship. These highly-competitive fellowships are awarded by a partnership between the French cosmetics company L’Oreal and the Irish National Commission for UNESCO, with the support of the Royal Society. They are intended to provide flexible financial support to young women scientists engaged in exemplary and promising research projects.
Nicky’s research focusses on the targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs to improve the quality and length of life for cancer patients.
Targeting drug delivery using an external stimulus - like light or ultrasound - allows precise control over both the location and timing of drug release. It can also be used to tackle resistance to treatment, by releasing a number of different agents in the same location, and allows better control over their relative concentrations than simple administration. Furthermore, it improves the potential for theranostics – the combination of imaging and therapy within the same molecule, so that the progress of treatment can be monitored in real time. Delivery of drugs specifically to where they are needed means a smaller dose needs to be given to the patient, and less undelivered drug will need to be broken down and removed from the body, reducing potential side-effects.
The research supported by the L'Oreal-UNESCO fellowship aims to develop more effective treatments and deliver them less invasively for a rare but essentially lethal form of paediatric brain cancer called DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma). Research into this type of paediatric brain cancer is chronically underfunded compared to other cancers, despite having a less than 1 percent survival rate 5 years after diagnosis, the average survival time is only 9 months from diagnosis. The L'Oreal-UNESCO award will be used to fund a technican to test potential new treatments on cancer cell lines.