Cancer Research

‘Development of novel anti-tumour agents and investigating the role of metals for treatment of cancer’

University of Sydney, NSW
Awarded 2011
Co-funded by the Rotary Club of Liverpool West

“With the limitations and undesirable side effects associated with current cancer treatments, research into iron chelators and the role of iron in the treatment of cancer offers a promising alternative.”

Researcher Profile

Rayan is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. She completed her honours in Medical Science with the Iron Metabolism and Chelation group (Department of Pathology, University of Sydney) in 2010 under the supervision of Professor Des Richardson.

One of six children, Rayan was born and grew up in the Canterbury/Bankstown district. She attended Malek Fahd Islamic School in Greenacre and this is where she discovered her passion for science and research. Rayan looked forward to practical classes and enjoyed learning about previous scientists and their findings. She always shared the exciting things she learnt in class with her siblings, two of which she believes are budding scientists. Her enthusiasm for science has also caught on to others through tutoring secondary science students. Rayan’s dedication to making it an exciting and interesting area of study has successfully changed the attitudes of many of her students towards science.

Her passion for science strengthened over the course of her university degree and the drive to move ahead and learn more by research has taken a good hold of her career goals overall. She is particularly interested in neurodegenerative diseases and cancer research.

With great experience in the type of studies proposed and her commitment to science, Rayan is eager to complete her PhD studies in this exciting area of research.

Project Summary

Tumour cells require a lot more iron to grow and multiply than normal body cells and so they have huge iron storage compartments within them. A class of drugs known as iron chelators, act to deplete the cells of iron by targeting these storage compartments. Iron chelators have previously been used for the treatment of iron overload diseases such as β-thalassemia. Breakthrough studies in the laboratory of my supervisor, Prof. Des Richardson, have provided evidence that these drugs can also act as anti-cancer agents, with tumour cells showing sensitivity to iron chelation therapy. Interestingly, these drugs were found to be selective to tumour cells, making them a more desirable treatment option with fewer side effects.

Understanding how these iron chelators function and what proteins are involved in their anti-tumour activity is a key aim of my project. The regulation of several key proteins known to be involved in cell growth and repair will be closely examined following treatment with novel iron-binding drugs in a range of cancers including Melanoma.

Another major aim of my project is the development of new iron chelators for the treatment of melanoma. Studies from this laboratory have already demonstrated that one of our novel drugs markedly inhibits melanoma tumour growth in mice without significant damage to normal tissues, and this will be further explored in my project. Reflecting the combinatorial nature of clinical cancer chemotherapy, I will for the first time explore chelator anti-cancer activity in combination with standard chemotherapeutics in melanoma.

With the limitations and undesirable side effects associated with current cancer treatments, research into iron chelators and the role of iron in the treatment of cancer offers a promising alternative.

Supervisors: Professor Des Richardson & Dr Zaklina Kovacevic