Breast Cancer: Our Research

Professor Roger Daly, Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University is leading a collaboration with Monash Health and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, to map the molecular characteristics of triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive form of cancer for which traditional chemotherapy treatments are ineffective. In a world first the team propose to measure the chemical signals and kinase activities present in triple negative breast cancer to sub-classify the disease and identify new therapeutic targets.

Dr Lisa Ooms, also from Monash University’s Department of Biochemistry, published the discovery of a new gene responsible for breast cancer metastasis. The finding has three major implications including identifying patients at risk of developing secondary cancer, helping to determine which subset of breast cancer patients could be treated with therapies that target the gene (PIPP), and developing a potential drug to target the primary cancer and prevent or slow its growth.

Dr Erica Sloan and researchers at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences have discovered that chronic stress accelerates cancer growth in mice, and are now examining whether anti-anxiety medications and therapies could be used to block the spread of cancer cells. A clinical trial is now underway with breast cancer patients in Australia to see whether beta-blockers, commonly used to treat hypertension and anxiety, as well as therapies such as yoga and meditation, could be used to prevent the spread of cancer. Researchers hope the trial will lead to new treatment options for recently diagnosed and longer-term sufferers.

Dr Kristy Brown, Head of the Cancer and Metabolism Lab at Hudson Institute is internationally regarded for her research into obesity and breast cancer risk and is currently leading several projects in conjunction with clinical oncologists and surgeons from Monash Health investigating new therapies aimed at breaking the linkage between obesity and breast cancer. These include using Metformin to treat and prevent oestrogen-dependent cancer and Ghrelin, a new breast-specific aromatase inhibitor.

A/Prof Colin Clyne and his team of researchers at the Cancer Drug Discovery Lab at Hudson Institute are interested in understanding resistance to breast cancer therapies, the regulation and action of oestrogen in breast cancer, and pharmacology of nuclear receptorss.

The Women’s Health Research team at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has conducted one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive studies investigating health and wellbeing after breast cancer. The team, including international leaders Prof Robin Bell and Prof Susan Davis, is also expert in clinical trials like the ATLAS trial which assessed breast cancer and tamoxifen duration – 5 years vs. 10 years, and is currently recruiting for trials investigating the effects of metformin on breast tissue, prevention of endometrial cancer with metformin and sexual wellbeing after breast cancer.

Cabrini’s Szalmuk Family Psycho-oncology Unit is involved in a range of collaborative research projects. Recent research includes Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: a post-treatment psycho-education program for women with breast cancer