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Obesity-related inflammatory cytokines and their ability to alter chemotherapy drug metabolism by liver CYP450 enzymes

A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Friday, 23 February 2018
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
On-campus or via distance?
Pathology and Biomedical Science (UOC)
Dr Margaret Currie, Dr Matthew Strother


Obese breast cancer patients tend to respond more poorly to chemotherapy and have more rapid disease recurrence and shorter survival times. One reason for this may be that obesity leads to low-level chronic inflammation that affects the way breast cancer patients metabolise chemotherapy drugs.

Liver cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes play important roles in drug metabolism. For example, the liver enzyme CYP3A4 is involved in metabolism of cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin (Adriamycin), paclitaxel and docetaxel (all chemotherapy agents used to treat breast cancer). It is known that inflammatory cytokines can down regulate CYP450 enzymes, thus reducing their activity and inhibiting drug metabolism. However, no one has yet investigated whether inflammatory adipokines, at the levels encountered in obese patients, are capable of affecting the way liver CYP450 enzymes metabolise chemotherapy drugs.

Therefore, this project aims to use immortalised HepG2 liver cells to explore the way obesity-related inflammatory proteins alter liver CYP450 enzyme genotype, phenotype and metabolic function. This project forms a part of our ongoing studies at the University of Otago Christchurch into the potential benefits of moderate exercise during chemotherapy treatment for early breast cancer.

Preferred student expertise

An enthusiastic science student with an interest in cancer research who has some previous laboratory experience.

Further information

This project is one of the many available for the 2018 intake of BBiomedSc(Hons) at the University of Otago, Christchurch campus.


Dr Margaret Currie
Tel   64 3 364 0544