Photo of Dr Fiona Freeman

Biotechnology & medicine

Dr Fiona Freeman

Assistant Professor, School of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, University College Dublin

Dr Fiona Freeman’s current research investigates the use of innovative engineering techniques in developing novel therapeutics to treat the paediatric bone cancer, osteosarcoma.

An Assistant Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at University College Dublin, she has identified a novel microRNA, miR-29b gene as a potential therapeutic target for osteosarcoma. The highly aggressive bone cancer primarily affects children with over 3,000,000 children diagnosed every year.

Treatment currently involves extensive surgical intervention and chemotherapy, the same standard-of-care regimen first introduced in the late seventies. Typically this results in dismal prognosis and compromised quality of life owing to poor bone regeneration and, in a substantial number of cases, limb amputation.

Dr Freeman has developed a formulation of miR-29b:nanoparticles to deliver the miRNA to the tumour site via a hyaluronic-based hydrogel delivery system and has found, following treatment, a significant decrease in tumour burden, an increase in survival, and an increase in the regeneration of the surrounding damaged bone.

These findings have the potential to revolutionise osteosarcoma treatment and improve patient outcomes by significantly reducing primary tumour mass and providing vital data that will help to inform the design of future therapies for young patients.

The technology is not limited to osteosarcoma and has the potential to treat a range of other bone cancers including bone metastases.