Breast cancer

Our research investigates the immunology of breast cancer with special reference to high risk triple negative breast cancer. Dr Aparna Jayachandran is the Senior Research Fellow, leading the Breast cancer program at the Ballarat Institute. Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women with 20,000 new cases diagnosed in Australia each year. It is the second most common cause of cancer related deaths in women with over 3,100 deaths per year. Triple negative breast cancer accounts for 15% of all breast cancers. Our research investigates the immunology of breast cancer with special reference to high risk triple negative breast cancer. This research aims to determine protein targets on breast cancer cells that may be involved in evading the immune system, by creating a camouflaging “fog” around these cells. It is hoped that by identifying these proteins, druggable targets can be developed that would “lift the fog” from these cells and allow the immune system to attack the cancer. One million cases of breast cancer diagnosed around the world each year, 15-20% are TNBCs. TNBC is more aggressive than other breast cancer subtypes. TNBC patients have a median survival of <14 months once cancer has spread. TNBC has limited treatment options and leads to significantly lower survival rates.  

The group have published important first work in the field describing the behaviour and function of a pregnancy associated plasma protein (PAPPA), that is highly found in aggressive triple-negative breast cancers. High PAPPA concentrations are generally detected in blood of pregnant women. However, in breast cancer patients, researchers found that an abnormal overexpression of PAPPA negatively affects survival rates and increases the risk of the cancer recurring. The research sought to understand its functional consequences, and findings revealed that PAPPA plays an important role in regulating key cell motility networks in breast cancers.

This research has been recently recognised and published in international medical journal, Scientific Reports.

The group have also notably reported on how the interplay of tumour characteristic factors causing immune-checkpoint-inhibitor based immunotherapy to fail in TNBC. We report the relevance of crosstalk between various cellular features on the outcomes of immunotherapy and highlight the need for combination treatments. Through detailed understanding of the biological backdrop, patient outcomes will be significantly improved.  

Group Leaders
  • Dr Aparna Jayachandran
  • Dr Prashanth Prithviraj
  • Dr Arpita Podder
  • Dr Farrah Ahmady
  • Dr Nicole Yap- Collaborating Clinician (Metropolitan)
  • Dr Emma Gannan- Collaborating Clinician (Ballarat)
PhD Candidates