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About Us

The Tran lab is primarily centered on understanding non-coding RNA expression and function in Head and Neck Cancers (HNC). Within our laboratory, we have two themes that guide our work, with one focused on clinical work related to microRNA biomarkers in oral cancers, and the other examining the regulatory function of microRNAs and other ncRNAs such as long ncRNAs in HNC.

Another key area of interest for the lab is the field of viral oncology, with a particular emphasis on exploring the involvement of HPV16 in oral cancers. Specifically, our research is focused on characterising the mechanisms by which HPV16 is able to move between cells via nanotubes, as well as investigating the role that miRNAs play in viral infection and cancer cell transformation.

The lab is base at UTS Australia and welcomes any students who would like to take on a honours or PhD projects as part of our cancer research program. 


Lab News

We have lab members working on various aspects of head and neck cancers and HPV16 research. Between running gels, performing PCRs and growing cells, we find the time to have fun and enjoy our science! 

Dr. Dayna Sais

Dayna, positioned at the bottom right, was honored with the Best Presentation Award for a postdoctoral researcher at the Foster Symposium held at UTS.


Her presentation delved into the role of parasitic miRNAs and their capability to influence macrophages in the context of Fasciola infection.


Additionally, Dayna is recognized for her expertise in bioinformatics, focusing on the study of variations in iosmiRs in relation to infection and various human diseases.


Sabrina Zeng

Sabrina joins the lab as a Capstone Research student, focusing on a medical device project aimed at enhancing the experience of midwives and new mothers. Her skills are particularly strong in 

generating design concepts, and she is driven by a desire to positively impact the lives of others. Additionally, she serves as the President of the UTS Biomedical Engineering Society, demonstrating her leadership and commitment to biomedical engineering. 

Maeve Gonin

Maeva, is a Master's research student from France with expertise in mechanics, electricity, and supply chain management. She possesses a keen interest in tackling challenges, particularly those of a complex nature. Looking ahead, Maeva aims to delve into entrepreneurship and play a role in creating innovative health products. Her current endeavour involves designing a prototype SCUBA diving apparatus tailored for individuals with heart conditions.

Current and Previous funding agencies which have supported our work 

ARC Discovery Projects - (DP210101337)

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MTP Connect REDI Fellowship for 2023


UTS Chancellors Fellowship Program


Funder: Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP). Award Number: W81XWH-11-1-0400 - Proposal Number: PC100037

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Various Seed and PhD grant funding

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Research Scholarship Funding 2023-25


Quantitative PCR Workshop ​- 4 Day Course
Nov 2023

In 2023, our workshop welcomed both beginners and post-doctoral researchers eager to deepen their qPCR knowledge. The curriculum encompassed experimental design, control measures, and data interpretation techniques.


Participants particularly appreciated the hands-on training provided in our PC2 laboratories. With 30 attendees, the workshop was a success, and all had an enjoyable experience. We look forward to offering this course again in 2024.

If you are interested in the 2024 workshop, please contact Nham, email: for a reservation. 

Selected Research Publications 

1. The knowns and unknowns of helminth–host miRNA cross-kingdom communication, S Chowdhury, D Sais, S Donnelly, N Tran. Trends in Parasitology, 2023

​2. Biplex Quantitative PCR To Detect Transcriptionally Active Human Papillomavirus 16 From Patient Saliva. Fiona Deutsch, Dayna Sais, Ni Keatinge, Meredith Hill, Ngoc Ha Tran, Michael Elliott and Nham Tran. BMC Cancer, In Press 2024


3. Exploring the utility of circulating miRNAs as diagnostic biomarkers of fasciolosis. Sumaiya Chowdhury. et al,  Nham Tran and Sheila Donnelly. Sci Rep. 2024 Mar 28;14(1):7431. 

4. Current state of play for HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers. F Deutsch, IR Bullen, K Nguyen, M Elliott, N Tran. Cancer Treatment Reviews, 2022

5. Commandeering the mammalian Ago2 miRNA network: a newly discovered mechanism of helminth immunomodulation. S Donnelly, N Tran. Trends in Parasitology 37 (12), 1031-1033


Read our articles published in The Conversation

Explainer: microRNA, the puppet master of the genome
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