Winner of the ATA Scientific Young Scientist Award – CRS 2016

Award winner
ATA Scientific would like to thank all those that participated in our recent Young Scientist Award promotion. All entries were judged by a panel of office bearers from the local CRS chapters.

Congratulations to our three finalists:

  • Miss Khairunnisa Abdul Ghaffar, UQ, Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences
  • Linda Hong, Monash University, Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Ms Lisa Belfiore, University of Wollongong, Biological Sciences


Each finalist presented a short talk during the Joint Australia-NZ CRS Student Workshop “Crossing Biological Barriers” held at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Melbourne on 21 April, 2016.


Award winner

Congratulations to our winner Ms Lisa Belfiore for winning $2000 award. Lisa is a second-year PhD candidate, studying under the supervision of Dr Kara Perrow, within the Targeted Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University of Wollongong.

Lisa’s PhD research is focused towards the development of targeted liposomal drug formulations for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

“ My research is developing dual-targeted liposomes containing potent anticancer drugs for delivery to breast cancer cells. The liposomes have ligands attached to the surface that specifically bind to two different cell surface receptors commonly overexpressed in metastatic breast cancer. This targeted drug delivery approach will help direct anticancer drugs to breast cancer cells while minimising exposure to normal cells, hopefully resulting in decreased systemic toxicity and increased therapeutic efficacy of the anticancer drug.”

Lisa plans to use the award to attend the 44th Annual Meeting & Exposition of the Controlled Release Society in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 2017.

Below is a copy if the winning abstract presented at the CRS student meeting.

Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer (BC) accounts for 20% of all BC cases and has the second poorest prognosis among BC subtypes. The FDA-approved targeted therapy Trastuzumab (Herceptin®) is the standard of care for patients with HER2-positive metastatic disease and improves overall survival and time-to-disease progression, with chemotherapy. However, approximately 70% of all treated patients experience relapse or disease progression. We have recently published a review, based on cumulative preclinical and clinical evidence, which identifies a population of cells that exist within the HER2-positive molecular subtype, particularly cancer stem cells (CSCs) and circulating tumour cells (CTCs) that concomitantly express the urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR). These cells display inherent stem cell/mesenchymal-like pro perties promoting tumour cell motility and a metastatic phenotype. We propose that this uPAR-positive subtype may be partially responsible for the failure of HER2-targeted treatment strategies. This makes uPA and HER2 ideal targets for the development of a dual-targeted anticancer therapy. We aim to develop novel drug-loaded liposomes that simultaneously target tumour and/or stromal cell uPA and HER2 to deliver lethal drug doses to tumour cells expressing either or both tumour biomarkers. Drug-loaded liposomes prepared by thin film hydration were surface conjugated with human recombinant plasminogen activator inhibitor type 2 (PAI-2) and/or trastuzumab to target uPA and HER2, respectively. The biological properties of the liposomes were evaluated in vitro using 2D monolayer cell cultures and 3D multicellular tumour spheroid models. Functionalised liposomes containing the potent cytotoxin N-alkylisatin (N-AI) showed receptor-dependent internalisation and toxicity against breast cancer cell lines expressing uPA and/or HER2. In a resectable orthotopic breast tumour xenograft mouse model (MDA-MB-231HM), treatment with PAI-2 conjugated liposomes containing N-AI decreased primary tumour re-growth after resection and reduced axillary lymph node metastasis compared to treatment with free drug or saline. These promising preliminary results demonstrate scope for further preclinical evaluation of uPA/HER2-dual targeted, drug-loaded liposomes in the context of metastatic HER2-positive BC treatment. We hypothesize that the selective targeting of different tumour cell subtypes using a liposomal drug formulation will provide a means to treat trastuzumab-resistant tumours in HER2-positive BC.

The ATA Scientific Young Scientist Award, which was started in 2011, was set up to offer young scientists financial assistance to further their education and to attend scientific conferences and meetings around the world.

Over the past 5 years ATA Scientific have awarded the Young scientist travel prize to more than 35 winners from multiple Universities and research organisations around Australia and New Zealand. For more information regarding our award or to enter the next promotion contact us or ‘Like us” on Facebook or visit