Dr Hana Starobova

Research Fellow

Institute for Molecular Bioscience

Overview

Dr Hana Starobova is a pharmacist and NHMRC research fellow at the Sensory Neuropharmacology Group at the University of Queensland (UQ). She works under the mentorship of Prof. Vetter, and as an early career researcher, she is working toward an independent research career as a group leader. She obtained her PhD in 2020 from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, UQ, and continued here to conduct studies as a Children Hospital Foundation Fellow (2021-2023) in the areas of cancer therapy-induced adverse and late effects with the main focus on neuropathies. Over the past four years, she has developed a research program focusing on the understanding of cancer therapy-induced adverse and late effects with a special interest in children, and established innovative transcriptomic and microscopy pipelines, in vitro assays, adult and juvenile models of adverse and late effects following mono- and combination chemotherapy and radiotherapy, assays for the assessment of adverse effects including cognition and neuropathies, as well as cancer models. Knowledge impact arising from her research program has been disseminated in 18 peer-reviewed publications, having together attracted >1,100 citations (h-index 15, i10-index 18, Google Scholar, May 2024).

Research Interests

  • Development of mechanism based treatments of cancer therapy-induced adverse effects
  • Adhesion Molecules and Immunology
  • Adult and Juvenile In vivo preclinical models
  • Impact of age on cancer therapy-induced adverse effects

Research Impacts

Dr Starobova`s work on the adverse effects of cancer therapy has led to several industry collaborations and industry-sponsored research programs, including a collaboration with Swedish Pharma Company Cantargia. Additionally, Dr Starobova is a consulting member of the Cancer Prevention Initiative Scientific Council, Washington DC. Dr Starobova`s research also attracted philanthropic funding from private donors, evidencing the relevance and importance of her research to patients.

Dr Starobova has won more than 15 awards and honours during her research career, including the following prestigious national and international awards: Women in Technology, Young Achiever Award winner (2019) for contribution to science, Best Abstract award in the allied health category, ANZCHOG (2023), International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Award - the 17th World Congress on Pain, Boston, USA (2018), State Pharmacists’ Association Medal for the highest-ranked master’s student of pharmacy at all universities in Germany (2015). Dr Starobova is also an alumna (2019) and a member of the Homeward Bound project community.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Masters Project:

    Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a debilitating side effect without effective treatment options. Up to 90% of paediatric and adult patients treated with chemotherapy develop severe CIPN. This condition not only increases morbidity but also significantly diminishes long term the quality of life for the affected patients. CIPN is very difficult to diagnose in patients, impacting the future understanding of this condition and the development of effective treatment strategies. A vast range of studies addressing CIPN predictors/markers and outcome measures have been published, however, many of these studies contradict each other or are based on poor methodologies. Therefore, in this project, we will aim to perform a systematic review of clinical studies to bring a better understanding of the predictors/markers and outcome measures of CIPN.

    Systematic Review, no laboratory work involved.

    Supervisors: Dr Hana Starobova, Prof Irina Vetter

  • Project available from January 2024

    Macrophages are innate immune cells that are crucial for initiating immune response. Macrophage activation is implicated in driving many painful pathological stages, including neuropathy and inflammatory pain. Potassium channels, such as Kv1.3, regulate cell potassium homeostasis, and any dysregulation in intracellular potassium can lead to macrophage activation and resultant cytokine and chemokine release, driving pathogenesis of pain. This project will investigate the effects of specific potassium channel-targeting toxins on macrophage activation using electrophysiology techniques, live cell fluorescent microscopy, and in vivo rodent behavioural studies.

    Supervisors: Prof Irina Vetter, Dr Hana Starobova

    Animal handling and behavioural assessments in rodents are vital for this project.

  • Project available from January 2024

    Treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy for childhood and adult brain cancers save many lives. However, they also cause long-term debilitating adverse effects, also termed "late effects", such as pain, cognitive disabilities and sensory-motor neuropathies. Currently, no effective treatments are available, and brain cancer survivors are forced to live with long-term disabilities.

    Animal models are important for the understanding of disease pathology and for preclinical testing of novel treatment strategies. However, currently there are no appropriate animal models available for the testing of late effects of cancer therapy.

    To address this gap, this PhD project aims to develop in-vivo animal models of cancer therapy-induced late effects and to test the efficacy of novel treatment strategies. This project forms a foundation for future clinical studies.

    Project will be performed in collaboration with Prof. Irina Vetter (IMB) and A/Prof. Raelene Endersby (Telethon Kids Institute).

    Animal handling and behavioral assessments in rodents are vital for this project.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Masters Project:

    Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a debilitating side effect without effective treatment options. Up to 90% of paediatric and adult patients treated with chemotherapy develop severe CIPN. This condition not only increases morbidity but also significantly diminishes long term the quality of life for the affected patients. CIPN is very difficult to diagnose in patients, impacting the future understanding of this condition and the development of effective treatment strategies. A vast range of studies addressing CIPN predictors/markers and outcome measures have been published, however, many of these studies contradict each other or are based on poor methodologies. Therefore, in this project, we will aim to perform a systematic review of clinical studies to bring a better understanding of the predictors/markers and outcome measures of CIPN.

    Systematic Review, no laboratory work involved.

    Supervisors: Dr Hana Starobova, Prof Irina Vetter

  • Project available from January 2024

    Macrophages are innate immune cells that are crucial for initiating immune response. Macrophage activation is implicated in driving many painful pathological stages, including neuropathy and inflammatory pain. Potassium channels, such as Kv1.3, regulate cell potassium homeostasis, and any dysregulation in intracellular potassium can lead to macrophage activation and resultant cytokine and chemokine release, driving pathogenesis of pain. This project will investigate the effects of specific potassium channel-targeting toxins on macrophage activation using electrophysiology techniques, live cell fluorescent microscopy, and in vivo rodent behavioural studies.

    Supervisors: Prof Irina Vetter, Dr Hana Starobova

    Animal handling and behavioural assessments in rodents are vital for this project.

  • Project available from January 2024

    Treatments such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy for childhood and adult brain cancers save many lives. However, they also cause long-term debilitating adverse effects, also termed "late effects", such as pain, cognitive disabilities and sensory-motor neuropathies. Currently, no effective treatments are available, and brain cancer survivors are forced to live with long-term disabilities.

    Animal models are important for the understanding of disease pathology and for preclinical testing of novel treatment strategies. However, currently there are no appropriate animal models available for the testing of late effects of cancer therapy.

    To address this gap, this PhD project aims to develop in-vivo animal models of cancer therapy-induced late effects and to test the efficacy of novel treatment strategies. This project forms a foundation for future clinical studies.

    Project will be performed in collaboration with Prof. Irina Vetter (IMB) and A/Prof. Raelene Endersby (Telethon Kids Institute).

    Animal handling and behavioral assessments in rodents are vital for this project.