Natalia Vukelic La Trobe University Melbourne, Australia

Natalia Vukelic is currently a third year La Trobe University PhD student within the Oncogenic Transcription laboratory at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer research institute. Through her work Natalia has developed expertise in colorectal cancer, particularly around identifying and exploiting novel therapeutic vulnerabilities which arise in this malignancy. Her project seeks to explore why not all colorectal cancer patients benefit from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Understanding the importance of oxidative stress in cancer progression and treatment response, she is investigating novel strategies which can enhance the efficacy of these mainstay treatments, and predictive biomarkers facilitating the stratification of patients likely to benefit. The potential implications of these findings include sparing patients from surgery, possible colostomy, and unnecessary adjuvant chemotherapy to improve overall patient outcomes. To do this, she utilises the multiplexing power of optical barcoding to determine in vitro and in vivo sensitivity differences to radiotherapy and chemotherapy prior to validating the association between target expression and clinical response to these treatments using patient cohorts.

Natalia recently presented her work at multiple conferences, including the 2023 VCCC Research conference, and has received several awards including the best “Science Bites” talk from La Trobe University and second prize at the 2022 Biomed Link Student Conference.