The University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Michelle E. Farkas

Associate Professor

Our group focuses on the development of new platforms and tools for the study of cancer and its metastasis using chemical biology methods.

Current Research
Our laboratory’s work involves the development and use of molecular tools in order 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) generate new agents for the delivery of nucleic acids, 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 cells with detectable agents to visualize the presence of primary tumors and metastases. 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, and will be used in relevant models of disease.

People with altered circadian rhythms (i.e. shift-workers, frequent travelers) have been shown to be more susceptible to cancer and acquire more aggressive cancers than the general population. We are using small molecule circadian rhythm modulators to determine the effect of changes in circadian rhythm on cancer severity/metastatic potential. In instances where these molecules are shown to decrease aggression, they will be evaluated as potential drugs.

Learn more at

Academic Background

  • BA Wellesley College, 2001
  • PhD California Institute of Technology, 2010
  • Postdoctoral Training: University of California, Berkeley, DOD-BCRP, 2010-2013
Joshi, B. P., Hardie, J., Mingroni, M. A., Farkas, M. E., “Surface-Modified Macrophages Facilitate Tracking of Breast Cancer-Immune Interactions.” ACS Chem. Biol. DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.8b00509
Lin, H.-H., Farkas, M. E., “Altered Circadian Rhythms and Breast Cancer: From the Human to the Molecular Level.” Front. Endocrinol. 2018. 9, 218. (In special issue: Disorders of Circadian Rhythms)
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
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
Contact Info

Department of Chemistry
N527 LSL
240 Thatcher Road
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 545-4770