Past Research

Dr Euphemia Leung of The University of Auckland

Dr Leung's research focuses on early detection of resistance to the anti-estrogen drug Tamoxifen so as to provide opportunity for early intervention with alternative treatments for breast cancer patients. The outcome of this research could make a significant contribution in improving patient survival.

De Michael Black of The University of Otago

This is another research project that investigates causes of breast cancer drug resistance, such as Tamoxifen. It has received an NZBCF grant of $73,000 and is led by Dr Michael Black from The University of Otago. Dr Black's and colleague, Dr Sarah Song's research will use a unique resource of carefully processed publicly available breast tumour data collected from thousands of women all over the world, in combination with genomic information from hundreds of cancer-cell lines. This data will be used to identify those DNA changes that are associated with drug resistance and therefore drive breast cancer disease progression.

Dr Geoff Krissansen of The University of Auckland

Dr Geoff Krissansen in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at The University of Auckland is receiving Foundation funding of $45,000 and his innovative research may provide the missing link to a cure. His study proposes to enhance hormonal therapies for breast cancer using a beneficial agent called lactoferrin which is part of the body's defence system. "When lactoferrin is fully iron-saturated (Fe-Lf), its cancer fighting ability is significantly enhanced. From a treatment potential, this research, if successful, would boost the effects of the anti-hormone drug Tamoxifen, thus increasing survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer", Dr Krissansen explains.

Dr Paul Oei of IGENZ Ltd

Laboratory medicine has seen an increasing variety of techniques available for clinicians to use in predicting breast cancer survival and risk of recurrence. These include routine anatomic pathology and more sophisticated analytical tools such as immunohistochemistry (IHC) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). A FISH microarray is one of the new advances in tumour genetics and is being used to assess biological behaviour. This technique examines hundreds/thousands of strands of DNA/RNA or protein from the tumour and is able to determine the relative quantities (loss or gain) of these elements and then assess the relative likelihood of survival or response to various therapies.

Regretably, the FISH test is expensive and once a particular technique is patented, it cannot be reproduced in other laboratories. A new research project by Dr Paul Oei of IGENZ Ltd and Dr Reena Ramsaroop of Diagnostic Medlab in Auckland aims to develop a simple, reproducible, routine clinical laboratory FISH test which uses a new set of immunogenic (disease fighting) and genetic markers which predict survival and risk of recurrence, as well as responses to various treatments for women who present with breast cancer in NZ. The NZBCF Grant for this research project is $60,000.

Associate Professor Susan Dovey of The Univeristy of Otago

This research has been granted funding for two years: $46,000 Year 1 (2009) and $17,000 Year 2 (2010) and is the project of Associate Professor Susan Dovey at the Dunedin School of Medicine, The University of Otago. Overseas research suggests that the treatment choices made by rural women diagnosed with breast cancer impacts on their long term survival. For example, some rural women chose more extensive surgical therapies than urban women, and treatments such as radiation therapy, were less likely to be chosen because of pragmatic challenges such as travel time.

Associate Professor Dovey's research aims to determine whether rural and urban women in Otago and Southland have different treatment for breast cancer and to establish the reasons rural women with breast cancer opt for the treatment choices they do.


Research Projects

Dr Rhonda Rosengren at Otago University is working on a low-cost nano-medicine for triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive cancer that often affects younger women. This very exciting research could lead to clinical trials in women in two to three years’ time.

Professor Ann Richardson at Canterbury University is looking into the link between exposure to a common virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) and breast cancer. If the research supports a link, it could lead to development of a vaccine and the prevention of a significant proportion of breast cancer worldwide.

Dr Euphemia Leung at Auckland University is investigating how everolimus, an existing drug, might work in combination with other drugs to block the abnormal signalling pathways that cause cells to turn cancerous. Her work is focused on triple negative breast cancer.

Young scientist Hannah Palmer, 22, drew national and international acclaim for her study of how fatty tissue can make breast tumour cells more invasive, leading to increased metastasis (the spread of cancer beyond the breast) and, ultimately, more cancer deaths. The project was the outcome of a summer studentship was funded by your donations to the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation.

Abbey Jebb, a young doctor doing oncology training at Auckland Hospital, was awarded the inaugural NZBCF Oncology Fellowship. She will spend nearly two years looking at how the YB-1 protein in some breast tumours contributes to an increase in tumour cells and a worse prognosis in patients.

Two Otago University students used their NZBCF post-graduate radiation therapy scholarships to work on a ground-breaking trial to prevent and reduce toxic skin reactions in women undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer. The protective film used in their trial received remarkable results and will likely lead to a new standard of treatment worldwide.

The NZBCF recently announced three significant new projects that we’ve been able to fund jointly with the Health Research Council and the BCRT. These projects are about to get underway.

Dr Anita Dunbier at the University of Otago will trial a short treatment of the common anti-inflammatory drug aspirin together with standard anti-oestrogen therapy for ER+ breast cancer, to determine whether administering these two drugs together decreases the number of immune cells entering the tumour and the rate at which the tumour grows.

Dr Dong-Xu Liu from the University of Auckland and his research team have identified a novel protein called SHON, which can predict a favourable response to anti-oestrogen treatment. Dr Liu’s team aim is to validate the use of SHON as a prognostic biomarker for predicting patient response to anti-oestrogen drugs.

Dr Jo Perry from the University of Auckland will lead a project that seeks to discover and develop small molecule inhibitors of the growth hormone (GH) receptor and explore their use to treat breast cancer.