Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Department of Biochemistry profile

Dr Anita Dunbier

PositionSenior Lecturer
DepartmentDepartment of Biochemistry
QualificationsBSc(Hons) PhD
Research summaryMolecular oncology

Research

Research in our laboratory focuses on molecular aspects of cancer with particular emphasis on understanding the genotypic and phenotypic determinants of resistance to endocrine therapy in breast cancer.

Current projects

Investigation of genes involved in breast cancer susceptibility and response to therapy

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women, accounting for more than 400,000 deaths per year worldwide. Over three quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer receive anti-oestrogen therapy. We aim to investigate the role of three newly identified genes in breast cancer. We have found that these genes are turned on in breast cancer at the same time as the oestrogen receptor. They also appear to be involved in the way breast cancers respond to treatment and may contribute to genetic susceptibility to breast cancer. We aim to determine why these genes are turned on together and how they then influence the rate at which cancer cells grow. We will also investigate how these genes influence a woman's risk of breast cancer and the way in which she will respond to treatment. Understanding the role of these genes will help to ensure patients receive the most appropriate treatment and to develop more effective therapies.

How do immune cells help breast cancers to evade therapy?

The majority of breast cancers require the hormone oestrogen to grow. Drugs that act by preventing the production of oestrogen are the most effective treatment currently available for this type of cancer. However, these drugs do not work well for all patients. Our previous research suggests that attracting immune cells to the cancer site may cause the cancer to keep growing during therapy. This project aims to identify which immune cells are recruited to breast cancer cells during treatment and how the cancer cells signal to recruit them to the tumour. This research will help us to identify how breast cancers can evade therapy and to identify potential new drugs which could be used in combination with hormonal therapy to improve breast cancer treatments in the future.

Positions available

Enquires about projects from prospective graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are welcome.

Suitably qualified students, from all countries, are eligible to apply for a University of Otago PhD scholarship (continually assessed) which covers tuition fees and provides a generous emolument for living expenses. If you are interested in this possibility please also make contact with me early on.

Awards

  • Anita Dunbier
    2014, University of Otago Early Career Award for Distinction in Research
  • Anita Dunbier
    2013, OSMS Emerging Researcher Award
    For outstanding research achievement where the awardee has held a PhD for between five and ten years and an appointment at Otago for at least two years.

Publications

Prat, A., Lluch, A., Turnbull, A. K., Dunbier, A. K., Calvo, L., Albanell, J., … Alba, E. (2017). A PAM50-based chemoendocrine score for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer with an intermediate risk of relapse. Clinical Cancer Research, 23(12). doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-16-2092

López-Knowles, E., Wilkerson, P. M., Ribas, R., Anderson, H., Mackay, A., Ghazoui, Z., … Dunbier, A. K., … Dowsett, M. (2015). Integrative analyses identify modulators of response to neoadjuvant aromatase inhibitors in patients with early breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research, 17, 35. doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0532-0

Turnbull, A. K., Arthur, L. M., Renshaw, L., Larionov, A. A., Kay, C., Dunbier, A. K., … Dixon, J. M. (2015). Accurate prediction and validation of response to endocrine therapy in breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 33(20), 2270-2278. doi: 10.1200/jco.2014.57.8963

Patani, N., Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Ghazoui, Z., Ribas, R., Anderson, E., … Dowsett, M. (2014). Differences in the transcriptional response to fulvestrant and estrogen deprivation in ER-positive breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 20(15), 3962-3973. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-13-1378

Gao, Q., Patani, N., Dunbier, A. K., Ghazoui, Z., Zvelebil, M., Martin, L.-A., & Dowsett, M. (2014). Effect of aromatase inhibition on functional gene modules in estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer and their relationship with antiproliferative response. Clinical Cancer Research, 20(9), 2485-2494. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2602

Chapter in Book - Research

Dunbier, A. K., & Guilford, P. J. (2002). Gastric cancer: Inherited predisposition. In S. R. Hamilton & L. A. Aaltonen (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Cancer, Volume 2. (2nd ed.) (pp. 253-258). USA: Elsevier Science.

^ Top of page

Journal - Research Article

Prat, A., Lluch, A., Turnbull, A. K., Dunbier, A. K., Calvo, L., Albanell, J., … Alba, E. (2017). A PAM50-based chemoendocrine score for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer with an intermediate risk of relapse. Clinical Cancer Research, 23(12). doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-16-2092

López-Knowles, E., Wilkerson, P. M., Ribas, R., Anderson, H., Mackay, A., Ghazoui, Z., … Dunbier, A. K., … Dowsett, M. (2015). Integrative analyses identify modulators of response to neoadjuvant aromatase inhibitors in patients with early breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research, 17, 35. doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0532-0

Turnbull, A. K., Arthur, L. M., Renshaw, L., Larionov, A. A., Kay, C., Dunbier, A. K., … Dixon, J. M. (2015). Accurate prediction and validation of response to endocrine therapy in breast cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 33(20), 2270-2278. doi: 10.1200/jco.2014.57.8963

Patani, N., Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Ghazoui, Z., Ribas, R., Anderson, E., … Dowsett, M. (2014). Differences in the transcriptional response to fulvestrant and estrogen deprivation in ER-positive breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 20(15), 3962-3973. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-13-1378

Gao, Q., Patani, N., Dunbier, A. K., Ghazoui, Z., Zvelebil, M., Martin, L.-A., & Dowsett, M. (2014). Effect of aromatase inhibition on functional gene modules in estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer and their relationship with antiproliferative response. Clinical Cancer Research, 20(9), 2485-2494. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2602

Dunbier, A. K., Ghazoui, Z., Anderson, H., Salter, J., Nerurkar, A., Osin, P., … Dowsett, M. (2013). Molecular profiling of aromatase inhibitor-treated post-menopausal breast tumors identifies immune-related correlates of resistance. Clinical Cancer Research, 19(10), 2775-2786. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-12-1000

Dowsett, M., Sestak, I., Lopez-Knowles, E., Sidhu, K., Dunbier, A. K., Cowens, J. W., … Cuzick, J. (2013). Comparison of PAM50 risk of recurrence score with Oncotype DX and IHC4 for predicting risk of distant recurrence after endocrine therapy. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31(22), 2783-2790. doi: 10.1200/jco.2012.46.1558

Sgroi, D. C., Sestak, I., Cuzick, J., Zhang, Y., Schnabel, C. A., Schroeder, B., … Dunbier, A., … Dowsett, M. (2013). Prediction of late distant recurrence in patients with oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer: A prospective comparison of the breast-cancer index (BCI) assay, 21-gene recurrence score, and IHC4 in the TransATAC study population. Lancet Oncology, 14, 1067-1076. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70387-5

Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Ghazoui, Z., Lopez-Knowles, E., Pancholi, S., Ribas, R., … Dowsett, M. (2011). ESR1 is co-expressed with closely adjacent uncharacterised genes spanning a breast cancer susceptibility locus at 6q25.1. PLoS Genetics, 7(4), e1001382. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1001382

Miller, T. W., Balko, J. M., Ghazoui, Z., Dunbier, A., Anderson, H., Dowsett, M., … Arteaga, C. L. (2011). A gene expression signature from human breast cancer cells with acquired hormone independence identifies MYC as a mediator of antiestrogen resistance. Clinical Cancer Research, 17(7), 2024-2034. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-10-2567

Lønning, P. E., Haynes, B. P., Straume, A. H., Dunbier, A., Helle, H., Knappskog, S., & Dowsett, M. (2011). Recent data on intratumor estrogens in breast cancer. Steroids, 76(8), 786-791. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2011.02.040

Lønning, P. E., Haynes, B. P., Straume, A. H., Dunbier, A., Helle, H., Knappskog, S., & Dowsett, M. (2011). Exploring breast cancer estrogen disposition: The basis for endocrine manipulation. Clinical Cancer Research, 17(15), 4948-4958. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-11-0043

Ghazoui, Z., Buffa, F. M., Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Dexter, T., Detre, S., … Dowsett, M. (2011). Close and stable relationship between proliferation and a hypoxia metagene in aromatase inhibitor-treated ER-positive breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 17(9), 3005-3012. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-10-1704

Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Ghazoui, Z., Salter, J., Parker, J. S., Perou, C. M., … Dowsett, M. (2011). Association between breast cancer subtypes and response to neoadjuvant anastrozole. Steroids, 76(8), 736-740. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2011.02.025

Miller, T. W., Balko, J. M., Fox, E. M., Ghazoui, Z., Dunbier, A., Anderson, H., … Arteaga, C. L. (2011). ERα-dependent E2F transcription can mediate resistance to estrogen deprivation in human breast cancer. Cancer Discovery, 1, 338-351. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-11-0101

Dowsett, M., Smith, I., Robertson, J., Robison, L., Pinhel, I., Johnson, L., … Dunbier, A., … Bliss, J. (2011). Endocrine therapy, new biologicals, and new study designs for presurgical studies in breast cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs, 43, 120-123. doi: 10.1093/jncimonographs/lgr034

Dunbier, A. K., Martin, L.-A., & Dowsett, M. (2011). New and translational perspectives of oestrogen deprivation in breast cancer. Molecular & Cellular Endocrinology, 340(2), 137-141. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2010.12.034

Martin, L.-A., Ghazoui, Z., Weigel, M. T., Pancholi, S., Dunbier, A., Johnston, S., & Dowsett, M. (2011). An in vitro model showing adaptation to long-term oestrogen deprivation highlights the clinical potential for targeting kinase pathways in combination with aromatase inhibition. Steroids, 76, 772-776. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2011.02.035

Dowsett, M., Cuzick, J., Wale, C., Forbes, J., Mallon, E. A., Salter, J., … Dunbier, A., … Shak, S. (2010). Prediction of risk of distant recurrence using the 21-gene recurrence score in node-negative and node-positive postmenopausal patients with breast cancer treated with anastrozole or tamoxifen: A TransATAC study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28(11), 1829-1834. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2009.24.4798

Dunbier, A. K., Anderson, H., Ghazoui, Z., Folkerd, E. J., A’Hern, R., Crowder, R. J., … Dowsett, M. (2010). Relationship between plasma estradiol levels and estrogen-responsive gene expression in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 28(7), 1161-1167. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.9616

Nasri, S., More, H., Graziano, F., Ruzzo, A., Wilson, E., Dunbier, A., McKinney, C., Merriman, T., Guilford, P., … Humar, B. (2008). A novel diffuse gastric cancer susceptibility variant in E-cadherin (CDH1) intron 2: A case control study in an Italian population. BMC Cancer, 8, 138. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-8-138

Dowsett, M., & Dunbier, A. K. (2008). Emerging biomarkers and new understanding of traditional markers in personalized therapy for breast cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, 14(24), 8019-8026. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-08-0974

Kendall, A., Anderson, H., Dunbier, A. K., Mackay, A., Dexter, T., Urruticoechea, A., … Dowsett, M. (2008). Impact of estrogen deprivation on gene expression profiles of normal postmenopausal breast tissue in vivo. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 17(4), 855-863. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.epi-07-2718

Humar, B., McNoe, L., Dunbier, A., Heathcott, R., Braithwaite, A. W., & Reeve, A. E. (2008). Heterogeneous gene expression changes in colorectal cancer cells share the WNT pathway in response to growth suppression by APHS-mediated COX-2 inhibition. Biologics, 2(2), 329-337.

Humar, B., Fukuzawa, R., Blair, V., Dunbier, A., More, H., Charlton, A., … Reeve, A. E., … Guilford, P. (2007). Destabilized adhesion in the gastric proliferative zone and c-Src kinase activation mark the development of early diffuse gastric cancer. Cancer Research, 67(6), 2480-2489. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-3021

da Silva Tatley, F. M., Aldwell, F., Dunbier, A. K., & Guilford, P. J. (2003). N-terminal E-cadherin peptides act as decoy receptors for Listeria monocytogenes. Infection & Immunity, 71(3), 1580-1583.

Dunbier, A. K., & Guilford, P. J. (2002). Gastric cancer: Inherited predisposition. Encyclopedia of Cancer, Second Edition, 2, 253-258.

Dunbier, A. K., & Guilford, P. J. (2001). Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Advances in Cancer Research, 83, 55-65.

Grady, W. M., Willis, J., Guilford, P. J., Dunbier, A. K., Toro, T. T., Lynch, H., … Markowitz, S. D. (2000). Methylation of the CDH1 promoter as the second genetic hit in hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Nature Genetics, 26, 16-17.

^ Top of page

Journal - Research Other

Dunbier, A. K., Hong, Y., Masri, S., Brown, K. A., Sabnis, G. J., & Palomares, M. R. (2010). Progress in aromatase research and identification of key future directions. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 118(4-5), 311-315. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.09.005

More publications...