UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science


Responsive Oncotherapeutics

Professor Nomikou's research focuses on developing translational drug delivery approaches based on formulations / carriers that are responsive to forms of energy (electromagnetic fields, ultrasound) as well as the cancerous microenvironment.

Our work

Professor Nomikou's research demonstrates the potential of site-specific and minimally-invasive treatments based on low-intensity ultrasound (sonodynamic therapy) and light (photodynamic / photothermal therapy). The Responsive Oncotherapeutics group aims to optimise therapeutic modalities using nanotechnology and maximise their potential in clinic.

The group research has mainly focused on the design and development of polyglutamate-based nanoparticle formulations for improving the delivery of sensitizers to tumours in order to maximize the effect of site-specific tumour ablation using ultrasound and/or light. The effect of these treatment modalities in the induction of antitumour immune responses that can further augment tumour ablation are also being investigated in the context of their studies.

More recently, Professor Nomikou's team developed strategies to improve tumour responses to sonodynamic therapy, by identifying cancer cell defences of varying nature, depending on the tumour microenvironment conditions, and by subsequently applying combination treatment with agents that inhibit the relevant defence mechanisms. Thus far, the work has been focused on the treatment of prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

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Group members

Prof. Nikolitsa Nomikou

Head: Prof. Nikolitsa Nomikou

Dr Fabiola Scisione

Dr Fabiola Scisione, Research Associate

Ilona Kubajewska

Dr Ilona Kubajewska, Research Associate

Research students

Maryam Hadi

Maryam Mohammed Hadi (2017-)

PhD Project: Optimising sonodynamic therapy to treat prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Shiv Patel

Shiv Patel (2017-)

PhD Project: Developing tumour-responsive nanoparticles to treat pancreatic cancer.

Hamzah Masood

Hamzah Masood (2019-)

PhD Project: Investigating secondary effects of sonodynamic therapy to treat prostate cancer.

Ed Duffy

Ed Duffy (2019-)

Project: Investigating the apoptotic effect of RGD peptide to treat metastatic cancer.

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Jack Gilliland (2021-)

Project: Optimising sonodynamic therapy for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer.

Yidong Wang

Yidong Wang (2022-)

Project: Designing novel multifunctional nanoparticle formulations for augmenting the effect sonodynamic therapy in cancer.

Funding / Partnerships

Research is funded by the UK Research Councils (EPSRC, MRC), the Royal Society, as well as UK-based cancer charities (e.g., Bowel & Cancer Research). Dr Nomikou’s work has also been supported by private donations.

Selected publications

  1. Farrell, S., Nicholas, D., Nesbitt, H., Logan, K., Nomikou, N., et al. (2021). A tumour responsive, oxygen-generating nanoparticle to combat hypoxia in pancreatic tumours. British Journal of Surgery, 108 (9), znab430.235.
  2. Hadi, M.M., Farrell, S., Nesbitt, H., Thomas, K., Kubajewska, I., Ng, A., Masood, H., Patel, S., Sciscione, F., …, Nomikou, N. (2022) Nanotechnology-augmented sonodynamic therapy and associated immune-mediated effects for the treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol.
  3. Nicholas, D., Nesbitt, H., Farrell, S., Logan, K., Nomikou, N., et al. (2021). Exploiting a Rose Bengal-bearing, oxygen-producing nanoparticle for SDT and associated immune-mediated therapeutic effects in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 163, 49-59.
  4. Hadi, M.M., Masood, H., Sciscione, F., Patel, S., Nomikou, N., et al. (2021). Investigating the performance of a novel pH and cathepsin B sensitive, stimulus-responsive nanoparticle for optimised sonodynamic therapy in prostate cancer. J Control Release, Jan 10;329:76-86.
  1. Nomikou, N. (2020). Nanoparticles for Cancer Therapy and Diagnosis. US Patent Application, 16/385591.
  2. Logan, K., Foglietta, F., Nesbitt, H., Nomikou, N., et al. (2019). Targeted chemo-sonodynamic therapy treatment of breast tumours using ultrasound responsive microbubbles loaded with paclitaxel, doxorubicin and Rose Bengal. European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics, 139, 224-231.
  3. Nomikou, N., Feichtinger, G.A., Saha, S., Nuernberger, S., et al. (2018) Ultrasound-responsive gene-activated matrices for osteogenic gene therapy using matrix-assisted sonoporationJ Tissue Eng Regen Med, 12: e250– e260.
  4. Tarassoli, S.P., MacRobert, A., ..., Nomikou, N., et al. 2017. Cathepsin B-degradable, NIR-responsive nanoparticulate platform for target-specific cancer therapy. Nanotechnology, 28 (5).

Related themes