The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Michelle Farkas

Assistant Professor

Research areas include the development of cell-based imaging and drug delivery agents and nanoparticle-based carriers for therapeutics, toward immunomodulation and the treatment of cancer.

Current Research

Our laboratory’s work involves the development and use of molecular tools to further understand, image, and treat cancer subtypes. We are using chemical methodologies to: (1) convert cells into imaging agents and investigate their use as therapeutics, (2) understand the roles of macrophages in cancer, and (3) probe the underlying association between altered circadian rhythms and cancer. This work will not only change the way that cancer is studied, but will result in new treatment strategies.

Macrophages are often associated with the tumor microenvironment, and facilitate cancer progression and metastasis while suppressing the immune response. We will directly modify these and other tumor-tropic cells with detectable agents to visualize the presence of primary tumors and metastases, and use environment-sensitive linkers to attach chemotherapeutics that will be released in a site-specific manner. We are also undertaking studies with small molecules to convert macrophages from tumor-promoting to tumor-fighting entities, to use them as therapeutics.

Improved methods for delivery of nucleic acids (RNA, DNA) can facilitate their use as treatments. In collaboration with Vincent Rotello’s group (UMass, Chemistry), we are investigating the use of nanoparticle-stabilized capsules to transport therapeutic RNA molecules across the cell membrane. These RNAs are intended to down-regulate the expression of cancer associated genes, in immunomodulation applications, and will be used in relevant models of disease.

Learn more at elements.chem.umass.edu/farkasgroup/

Academic Background

  • BA Wellesley College, 2001
  • PhD California Institute of Technology, 2010
  • Postdoctoral Training: DOD-BCRP Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley, 2010-2013
Joshi, B. P.,* Hardie, J.,* Mingroni, M. A.,* Basabrain, A. O., Paracha, A., Farkas, M. E., “Surface-Modified Macrophages Facilitate Tracking of Breast Cancer-Immune Interactions.” ACS Chem. Biol. 2018, 13, 2339-2346.
Joshi, B. P., Hardie, J., Farkas, M. E., “Harnessing Biology to Deliver Therapeutic and Imaging Entities via Cell-Based Methods.” Chem. Eur. J. 2018. 18, 8717-8726
Jiang, Y.,* Hardie, J.,* Liu, Y., Ray, M., Luo, X., Das, R., Landis, R. F., Farkas, M. E., Rotello, V. M. “Nanocapsule-Mediated Cytosolic siRNA Delivery for Anti-Inflammatory Treatment.” J. Control Release. 2018, 283, 235-240.
Ray, M.,* Lee, Y.-W.,* Hardie, J., Mout, R., Tonga, G. Y., Farkas, M. E., Rotello, V. M. “CRISPRed Macrophages for Cell-Based Immunotherapy.” Bioconj. Chem. 2018. 29, 445-450
Hardie, J.,* Jiang, Y.,* Tetrault, E. R., Ghazi, P. C., Tonga, G. Y., Farkas, M. E.,* Rotello, V. M.* “Simulataneous Cytosolic Delivery of a Chemotherapeutic and siRNA using Nanoparticle-Stabilized Nanocapsules.” Nanotechnology. 2016. 27, 374001
Aanei, I. L., ElSohly, A. M., Farkas, M. E., Netirojjanakul, C., Regan, M., Murphy, S. T., O’Neil, J. P., Seo, Y., Francis, M. B. “Biodistribution of Antibody-MS2 Viral Capsid Conjugates in Breast Cancer Models.” Mol. Pharm. 2016. 13, 3764-3772.
Farkas, M. E., Aanei, A. L., Behrens, C. R., Tong, G. J., Murphy, S. T., O’Neil, J. P., Francis, M. B. “PET Imaging and Biodistribution of Chemically Modified Bacteriophage MS2.” Mol. Pharm. 2013. 10, 69-76.
 
Contact Info

Department of Chemistry
N527 LSL
240 Thatcher Road
Amherst, MA 01003

(413) 545-4770
farkas@chem.umass.edu

elements.chem.umass.edu/farkasgroup/