Breast cancer

Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia in 2023 for persons aged 20 to 39 and 60 to 79, and the most commonly diagnosed cancer for persons aged 40 to 59. While breast cancer is predominantly found in women, it can also affect men. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) makes up around 15% of all breast cancers and account for 30% of all breast cancer deaths. TNBCs are highly aggressive, more prone to metastasis and associated with poorer survival than other breast cancer subtypes. The survival time is only 12 months for patients who do not respond to chemotherapy. Despite medical advances over the past years, TNBC remains notoriously difficult to treat, and there are no dedicated drugs that can target it specifically.

The breast cancer program at FECRI investigates the immunology of breast cancer with special focus on high-risk TNBCs. Our team is the first to establish the association between high levels of a protein called pregnancy associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A) with poor outcome in TNBC patients. Our research has indicated that PAPP-A may be playing a particularly important role in TNBC and is a good candidate for further exploration and development toward treatment of TNBC.

We have identified that PAPP-A rich tumour cells can activate aggressive cellular programs such as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) to promote the spread of TNBC cancer cells. Ongoing research at the institute is examining multiple features of the PAPP-A-rich tumour and immune microenvironment, and their interactions with other proteins and cell types within the tumour. This may uncover disease mechanism, new prognostic biomarkers for TNBC patients and therapeutic avenues to further supress TNBC spread in combination with PAPP-A.

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