Dr Taskeen Janjua’s research is funded by Cure Cancer
She is based in the School of Pharmacy at The University of Queensland (UQ).
Dr Taskeen Janjua is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UQ School of Pharmacy and a community pharmacist. For her PhD thesis, which she completed in 2023, she conducted pioneering research on nanomedicine for brain cancer. Her work introduced a low-cost ultrasmall nanoparticle for more effective drug delivery to brain tumours, aiming to enhance the quality of life for patients. In 2023 at UQ, her thesis was nominated for the Dean Outstanding Thesis award. Despite being in the early stages of her research career, she is already leading a small team of masters and PhD students, and providing guidance to junior researchers working in the field of brain drug delivery.
Brain cancer is the 9th leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Australia, with 1,900 Australians facing this diagnosis and 1,500 dying from it every year. Unfortunately, the 5-year survival rate has remained at 23% since the 1980s and it is largely considered incurable despite advancements in therapies.
Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of brain cancer that is notorious for its poor prognosis. With a 5-year survival rate of <5%, it is difficult to treat because few chemotherapies can enter the blood-brain barrier, a protective shield around the brain that allows vital substances to enter while blocking harmful agents.
One of the chemotherapies used for glioblastoma is temozolomide, but the drug faces these limitations as it cannot stay in the blood very long, has low tumour penetration, and is prone to resistance. This is why there is an urgent need for research focused on developing targeted temozolomide therapies (and other existing drugs) that ensure there are reduced side effects and tumour recurrence rates, and improved survival for glioblastoma patients.
Dr Taskeen Janjua’s glioblastoma research
“After being affected by a family illness, I was personally motivated to play a part in the fight against cancer. I am driven by the vision of a future where families are given the hope to fight against this devastating illness.”
- Dr Taskeen Janjua
Dr Taskeen Janjua aims to improve the effectiveness of temozolomide (TMZ) by using nanotechnology. She has developed an ultra-small nanoparticle that aids existing, approved drugs like TMZ to cross the blood-brain barrier and provide a more efficient, targeted delivery of oral therapies for glioblastoma. This drug delivery platform addresses the disadvantages of TMZ, which has a short plasma half-life, limited blood-brain barrier access despite repeated dosage, and systemic side effects. By enclosing TMZ in targeting 30mn nanoparticles that can be translated into the clinic, she can improve TMZ efficacy and penetration into the tumour and reduce tumour recurrence rates.
In this Cure Cancer-funded project, Taskeen and her team will assess the effectiveness of her nanomedicine-based delivery of TMZ in models that closely resemble the structure of the blood-brain barrier and brain tumour. They will then use patient samples to replicate the tumour environment and study the impact of the therapy on the tumour. These findings could accelerate the clinical development of this groundbreaking health technology, which will ultimately improve long-term recovery and outcomes for glioblastoma patients.
The importance of funding cancer research
Taskeen knows first-hand how devastating cancer can be on families. This has led her to become a promising pioneer of innovative drug delivery platforms who is set on advancing the field of nanomedicine and giving hope to people living with brain cancer.
As an emerging researcher, she acknowledges the “hurdles of obtaining funding, handling administrative burdens, and navigating a competitive academic environment” which can slow down progress. Yet, she remains “propelled by passion” and is dedicated to her work.
Beyond the lab, Taskeen has a taste for adventure and enjoys hiking and indoor rock climbing. She also has a green thumb and is a big fan of playing Settlers of Catan with her friends and family, as well as video games like Overcooked.
“Receiving a Cure Cancer grant will provide crucial support to advance my career in brain cancer research. The financial assistance offered by Cure Cancer will enable me to access important resources and work with top researchers in the field. This support will help my ability to pursue research opportunities, which could impact the progress of nanomedicine-based brain cancer research.”
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