PhD Scholarship Top-up student profile: Samuel Brennan

TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Sam Brennan TCRN PhD Scholarship Top-up Recipient: Sam Brennan

The potential of non-coding RNAs as biomarkers of prostate cancer

Award: Sam is the recipient of a final year PhD Scholarship Top-up

Supervisor: Dr Rosetta Martiniello-Wilks; Head, UTS Translational Cancer Research Group (TCRG)

We aim to uncover a molecular signature for prostate cancer by analysing the RNA content of exosomes, which are nanoscale vesicles secreted by all cells. The prostate cancer cells secrete large volumes of these exosomes which we then harvest from easily accessed bodily fluids such as the serum/ plasma and urine. Once isolated, we can perform molecular profiling experiments to uncover this diagnostic molecular signature with prognostic value (predictive of patient outcome).  Using this unique prostate cancer molecular signature, we will develop a novel non-invasive test for prostate cancer diagnosis and prognosis. 


What is the translational application of your research?

The current PSA diagnostic blood test, can be difficult to interpret leading to under diagnosis and over treatment of prostate cancer patients. A patient’s prostate cancer is confirmed and staged by a pathologist following an examination of an invasive prostate biopsy histology slide. These invasive diagnostic methods cause low patient compliance. By looking at a non-invasive molecular signature, we hope to increase the accuracy and reliability of prostate cancer diagnosis and prognosis. Our non-invasive test will hopefully also prompt men to have their prostate checks earlier and more frequently allowing more effective treatment options available for early rather than late stage cancer which remains incurable.  


"The TCRN offers a unique opportunity by providing access to a large network of translational cancer knowledge and expertise which is central to my PhD studies.

I am looking forward to engaging much more closely with the TCRN clinical community in the very near future."

This PhD research has been presented at the following conferences:

  • Poster: Prostate cancer exosomes offering novel circulating biomarkers for early cancer diagnosis and prognosis. SE Brennan, N Tran, A Clayton, EM McGowan, PJ Cozzi, R Martiniello-Wilks. 8th Australasian Gene Therapy Society Conference; 8-10 May 2013, Aerial Conference Centre, University of Technology Sydney, NSW. J Gene Med 2013;15:331.
  • Poster: Investigating the Impact of Prostate Cancer Exosomal MicroRNA on Cancer Stroma Formation. Brennan S, Webber J, Tran N, Martiniello-Wilks, R, McGowan E, Clayton A. Presented at New Horizons Conference 2013, Kolling institute, Sydney, NSW.
  • Poster: Noncoding RNA in Prostate Cancer Exosomes:Offering novel Circualting Biomarkersfor Early Cancer Diagnosis and Prognosis. Brennan S, Tran N, Clayton A, McGowan E, Cozzi P, Martiniello-Wilks R. Presented at RNA 2013 conference, Davos, Switzerland.
  • Poster: The expression and role of microRNAs found in prostate cancer exosomes. Samuel Brennan, Paul  J. Cozzi, Eileen McGowan, Nham Tran & Rosetta Martiniello-Wilks. Presented at Scientific Research Meeting 2011, Kolling Institute, Sydney, NSW.  Won Best Poster Prize.
  • Oral presentation: The Transcriptome of Prostate Cancer Exosomes: Identifying circulating diagnostic/prognostic biomarkers for the early detection of prostate cancer. Samuel Brennan, Nham Tran, Paul  J. Cozzi, Eileen McGowan & Rosetta Martiniello-Wilks. Sydney Cancer Conference 2012, University of Sydney, NSW

Sam Brennan commenced his third year PhD studies at the School of Medical and Molecular Biosciences, UTS in February 2014.