Breast cancer

Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute’s Breast cancer research group is a great example of some of the important work that is being delivered in Ballarat. The
group is focussed on the immunology of Breast cancer with special reference to high-risk triplenegative 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 over 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 cancers account for 10%- 20% of breast cancers and have been reported to be more aggressive and associated with poorer survival than other subtypes of breast cancers. Notably, the triple-negative subtype of Breast cancer is encountered more often in pregnancy and has an aggressive clinical course.

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.

In world first work, our group have described the behaviour and function of a pregnancy associated plasma protein (PAPPA), that is highly found inaggressive triple-negative breast cancers. High PAPPA concentrations are generally detected in blood of pregnant women.

However, in breast cancer patients, our researchers found an abnormal overexpression of the protein. This research has provided a research pathway for the group toward a potential therapeutic target for this subset of breast cancers. This research on PAPPA has led to understanding a plausible mechanism for accelerated cancer progression during pregnancy. This research has been recently recognised and published in international medical journal, Scientific Reports.

A population based study to support clinical and decision making in treating cancer during pregnancy is currently underway at the Institute.

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