PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Samantha Khoury

Circulating microRNAs as biomarkers of Head and Neck Cancer

Award:  Samantha is the recipient of a two-year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisors:  Dr Nham Tran, Lecturer and Group PI ncRNA Cancer Group, Centre for Health Technologies, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, University of Technology, Sydney.

At the Non-coding RNA cancer group in UTS, we are developing a small RNA diagnostic tool known as miLife™: A Personalised Cancer Therapy platform. These are biomarkers for the early detection of Head and Neck (“HN”) cancer. When a patient comes into a clinic, they often present at a late stage & a doctor cannot tell them how aggressively the cancer will progress. miLife™ is designed to enhance the clarity of a patient’s diagnosis and outcome. To do this we basically collect blood during primary surgery & within a 24 hour timeframe the assay can provide a window into their prognostic outlook. This information will allow the clinician to guide patients to better therapy choices. We hope to provide this blood-based platform as a kit or service to healthcare providers & currently we are completing studies in Sydney Hospitals in the hope of empowering patients with enough information to make a difference in their lives.

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What is the translational application of your research?

My research will allow doctors to accurately diagnose, within a small timeframe, the type of disease and predict its course of progression. There would be a direct benefit to the patient thereby improving survival rates.

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"Our preliminary data shows a suite of miRNAs that can accurately diagnose HN cancer. This is currently being validated in a larger cohort of cancer patients (n>400). Within a year, we will be testing the suite with a team of clinicians in a prospective study at RPA. With the aid of the TCRN this network can grow, allowing us to provide this as a service to more patients, bringing it one step closer to benefit patients and the multidisciplinary teams that work together to improve their lives."

This research has been presented at the following destinations:

  • The Wellcome Trust Cambridge, England 2013
  • The FEBS Congress St Petersburg, Russia, 2013
  • The Annual Trailblazer Competition, Australia, 2012
  • SRM Meeting held at the Kolling Institute, RNSH, Australia 2011, 2012.

Samantha Khoury commenced the second year of her PhD studies at the School of Science, UTS in 2013.

Samantha Khoury
 TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up awardee Samantha Khoury