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24 April 2017

Today the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Breast Cancer Cure, and The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation are pleased to announce the latest recipients of funding through the Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand initiative. This fourth call for proposals was about identifying potential targeted and immune therapies for breast cancer, with a focus on targeted treatments, aspects of early detection, prognostic and predictive diagnoses, or preventative therapies.

Breast cancer research partner logos

Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand 2017 partnership recipients:

Associate Professor David Barker, University of Auckland
Development of inhibitors of PC-PLC as anticancer therapeutics
24 months, $200,000
Many patients with metastatic breast cancer do not respond to conventional chemotherapy and better strategies to treat these patients are urgently needed. An enzyme called phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) is involved in allowing breast cancer cells to grow and invade other tissues. This project seeks to prepare potent and selective drugs that target PC-PLC in breast cancer. We will prepare and examine the effectiveness of these drugs in reducing cancer cell growth, with the aim of providing new treatment options for patients with triple negative breast cancer.

Dr Anita Dunbier, University of Otago
The potential of immunotherapy as a treatment for ER+ve breast cancer
24 months, $199,491
Treatments that stimulate the immune system to attack tumours have revolutionised the treatment of some cancer types. However, these treatments have not yet been used effectively in breast cancer. More than three quarters of women with breast cancer present with the hormone-sensitive form of the disease and are subsequently treated with anti-oestrogen therapy. We have previously shown that treatment with anti-oestrogen drugs leads to infiltration of immune cells into breast tumours. We plan to investigate whether using either of two different immunotherapies in conjunction with anti-oestrogen therapies can stimulate an immune response directed against the tumour. This work will help assess whether these therapies are appropriate for treating oestrogen receptor positive tumours and, if so, whether they should be administered at the same time or separately.

Dr Jo Perry, Liggins Institute, University of Auckland
Targeting growth hormone signal transduction in breast cancer
24 months, $199,202
One of the most successful strategies for treating breast cancer has been the use of humanised monoclonal antibodies to target secreted growth factors or cell surface receptors whose function has been upregulated in the tumour. However, there is a need for new treatments. We have evidence to indicate that an approach that targets human growth hormone could be an effective therapeutic strategy for treating breast cancer. Growth hormone expression in human breast tumours is associated with reduced survival in patients. In addition, we have shown that inhibiting growth hormone delays tumour regrowth following radiotherapy. We aim to generate a therapeutic monoclonal antibody which inhibits the cancer promoting actions of growth hormone, for clinical applications to treat breast cancer.