Breakfasts fund new research

Read about the latest research into aspirin and genetic testing made possible by May’s Pink Ribbon Breakfast campaign which this year raised over $1.1million from 2500 breakfasts held nationwide.

Can aspirin improve response to anti-oestrogen therapy? Dr Anita Dunbier at the University of Otago is currently running a clinical trial (also funded by the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation and its partners) to establish whether the addition of aspirin can improve patient response to anti-oestrogen therapies (used to treat the most common form of breast cancer, ER+ breast cancer, which affects two-thirds of patients). A new NZBCF grant of $200,000 will take the study a step further: Dr Dunbier’s team will analyse the molecular changes that occur during treatment with aspirin and anti-oestrogen drugs, such as tamoxifen. Their analysis will indicate whether aspirin is likely to help patients in the long term, and will define biomarkers to identify which patients will benefit most.

New test aims to identify patients most likely to benefit from genetic screening for breast cancer: Dr Logan Walker at the University of Otago has been awarded $197,000 to develop a new method of identifying the patients most likely to benefit from screening for one of the cancer-causing BRCA gene mutations (Angelina Jolie is probably the best-known bearer of the BRCA1 mutation). Current genetic testing is expensive and arguably inefficient, returning few positive results for the number of women screened. Dr Logan’s team believes their new tissue analysis procedure will enable patients to be accurately prioritised for genetic testing, and will allow for better evaluation of test results.

Both Dr Walker’s and Dr Dunbier’s studies have been funded through the Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand initiative, which is now in its second year of funding and is a joint partnership between the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation (NZBCF), Breast Cancer Cure (BCC), and the Health Research Council (HRC).

Impact of Nanomedicine on triple negative breast cancer: Funding has been granted to Dr Rhonda Rosengren at Otago University. Her team is developing a low-cost nano-medicine for triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive cancer that often affects younger women. Around 20% of all breast cancer’s are triple negative. This very exciting research could lead to clinical trials in women in within two years’ time.

The NZ Breast Cancer Patient Registers: The Registers have now collected 10 years of breast cancer data from diagnosed women of all ages and ethnicities – largely because of NZBCF funding of this database. Because of the Registers we now know that the ten year survival rate for mammogram-detected breast cancer’s is 92% reinforcing the importance of early detection in successfully fighting breast cancer. We also know that the ten year outcome for women whose breast cancer is found symptomatically e.g a lump is not so positive at 75%
The Breast Cancer Registers monitor the treatment and outcomes of all breast cancer patient in the Auckland, Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch regions, giving valuable insights into how well our treatment regimens are working, and the ability to benchmark between regions and internationally.

Breast Cancer Risk Tool: The NZBCF has commissioned the development of the first NZ-specific breast cancer risk model, which will tell women their individual risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years. This online tool will be used by GPs to assess patient risk, and by the public to increase awareness of modifiable risk factors.

Training in Liposuction surgery to treat severe Lymphoedema: The NZBCF recently provided a travel grant to NZ breast surgeons to travel to Sydney to learn a new surgical technique aimed at relieving the effects of advanced lymphoedema. Subject to public health funding, the aim is to offer the surgery to severely affected NZ women and train other surgeons around the country in this new surgical method.

Medical technology and equipment: The NZBCF has recently funded a new $100k machine in Christchurch Hospital to protect the heart from radiation toxicity for women undergoing radiotherapy for early breast cancer . In Auckland the NZBCF has funded the NZBCF Breast Cancer Tissue bank at North Shore Hospital enabling better understanding of how affected tissue responds to targeted therapies and genetics.