Feb 9, 2017

ONJ Centre appoints breast cancer research head

Thanks in part to your donations, a world-leading breast cancer research program has been established at the ONJ Centre, aimed at developing new therapies for advanced breast cancer.

In June of this year, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute welcomed Professor Robin Anderson, head of the new Translational Breast Cancer Program. By establishing the first dedicated breast cancer research program at the ONJ Centre, Professor Anderson aims to expand the number of research groups.

Professor Anderson brings with her twenty years of experience as a leading researcher of breast cancer metastasis.  Metastasis is the process by which breast cancer cells escape from primary tumours and start growing in other parts of the body, sometimes years after initial diagnosis. Her research into metastasis is aimed at developing new therapies to prevent secondary tumours. 

According to Professor Anderson: “The focus of my research is to find treatments that can be taken chronically, that stop tumour cells from starting to grow into new secondary tumours.  So, in the future, we’ll be treating breast cancer like we might treat diabetes or high cholesterol, with non-toxic therapies that keep these tumour cells quiet.”

Joining Professor Anderson is Dr Normand Pouliot, who heads up the Translational Breast Cancer Program’s second laboratory. His focus is on how tumour cells survive and spread using the proteins that act to hold healthy cells together. He also has an interest in brain metastasis, which occurs when breast cancer cells spread to the brain. 

Metastasis is a vitally important area of breast cancer research as it is the major cause of death in breast cancer patients. The development of tools that can detect tumour cells or tumour DNA in a person’s blood are helping researchers to predict which patients might be at risk of secondary disease. These tools have been developed, and are being honed by researchers around the world, including those at the ONJ Centre. 

While the incidence of breast cancer is increasing due to lifestyle factors, mortality is decreasing due to better detection and early and more effective treatment. This drop in mortality is only made possible by breakthroughs in research funded, in part, by donations and philanthropy.

With continued research effort, Professor Anderson hopes that within twenty years up to 95 per cent of women with breast cancer will be long term survivors of this disease.

Learn more about the work of our Translational Breast Cancer Laboratory here.