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DSM staff profile

Dr Heather Cunliffe

PositionSenior Lecturer
QualificationsBSc(Hons) PhD
Research summaryTranslational biomarker discovery in breast and ovarian cancer
Teaching
  • GENE 360 Special Topics in Genetics
  • GENE 411 Current Topics in Genetics
  • MELS 304 Principles of Pathology
  • MICN 201 Medicine Second Year
  • MICN 301 Medicine Third Year
  • PATH 301 Applied Pathology
  • PATH 302 Cancer Biology (Course Convenor)
Memberships
  • Member, Health Research South Board
  • Member, Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG)
  • Active Member, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
  • Member, AACR-Women in Cancer Research
  • Member, New Zealand Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Research

The focus of Dr Cunliffe's research is the discovery and validation of biomarkers that will impact therapeutic decision-making and improve treatment outcomes for breast cancer and ovarian cancer patients. Her laboratory leverages genomic, biochemical, and cell-biologic approaches to define and target the pathobiology driving malignant progression in treatment-refractory tumour contexts.

Current areas of interest include:

  • Therapeutic targeting in triple negative breast cancer
  • Defining mechanisms of endocrine resistance
  • The molecular underpinnings of Inflammatory breast cancer
  • Recalcitrant subtypes of ovarian cancer including small cell tumours
  • Mechanisms of inherent/acquired chemoresistance in epithelial ovarian cancer

Dr Cunliffe also has an interest and significant expertise in biospecimen science to empower genomics-enabled medicine.

Biography

Dr Cunliffe completed her undergraduate training at Victoria University of Wellington and received her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Otago. She then trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow from 1999–2004 in the Cancer Genetics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, at the National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, MD, USA. In 2004, Dr Cunliffe joined the research faculty at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a not-for-profit biomedical research institute in Phoenix Arizona, where she headed the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Unit for 10 years prior to returning to the University of Otago.

Additional details

Publications

Witkowski, L., Goudie, C., Ramos, P., Boshari, T., Brunet, J.-S., Karnezis, A. N., … Cunliffe, H., … Foulkes, W. D. (2016). The influence of clinical and genetic factors on patient outcome in small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type. Gynecologic Oncology, 141, 454-460. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2016.03.013

Hoppe, R., Fan, P., Büttner, F., Winter, S., Tyagi, A. K., Cunliffe, H., … Brauch, H. (2016). Profiles of miRNAs matched to biology in aromatase inhibitor resistant breast cancer. Oncotarget. Advance online publication. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12103

Barrett, M. T., Anderson, K. S., Lenkiewicz, E., Andreozzi, M., Cunliffe, H. E., Klassen, C. L., … Pockaj, B. A. (2015). Genomic amplification of 9p24.1 targeting JAK2, PD-L1, and PD-L2 is enriched in high-risk triple negative breast cancer. Oncotarget, 6(28). doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.4494

Necela, B. M., Crozier, J. A., Andorfer, C. A., Lewis-Tuffin, L., Kachergus, J. M., Geiger, X. J., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Perez, E. A. (2015). Folate receptor-α (FOLR1) expression and function in triple negative tumors. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0122209. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122209

Fan, P., Cunliffe, H. E., Maximov, P. Y., Agboke, F. A., McDaniel, R. E., Zou, X., … Jordan, V. C. (2015). Integration of downstream signals of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor by endoplasmic reticulum stress for estrogen-induced growth or apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Molecular Cancer Research, 13(10), 1367-1376. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.mcr-14-0494

Journal - Research Article

Witkowski, L., Goudie, C., Ramos, P., Boshari, T., Brunet, J.-S., Karnezis, A. N., … Cunliffe, H., … Foulkes, W. D. (2016). The influence of clinical and genetic factors on patient outcome in small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type. Gynecologic Oncology, 141, 454-460. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2016.03.013

Hoppe, R., Fan, P., Büttner, F., Winter, S., Tyagi, A. K., Cunliffe, H., … Brauch, H. (2016). Profiles of miRNAs matched to biology in aromatase inhibitor resistant breast cancer. Oncotarget. Advance online publication. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.12103

Barrett, M. T., Anderson, K. S., Lenkiewicz, E., Andreozzi, M., Cunliffe, H. E., Klassen, C. L., … Pockaj, B. A. (2015). Genomic amplification of 9p24.1 targeting JAK2, PD-L1, and PD-L2 is enriched in high-risk triple negative breast cancer. Oncotarget, 6(28). doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.4494

Fan, P., Cunliffe, H. E., Maximov, P. Y., Agboke, F. A., McDaniel, R. E., Zou, X., … Jordan, V. C. (2015). Integration of downstream signals of insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor by endoplasmic reticulum stress for estrogen-induced growth or apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Molecular Cancer Research, 13(10), 1367-1376. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.mcr-14-0494

Necela, B. M., Crozier, J. A., Andorfer, C. A., Lewis-Tuffin, L., Kachergus, J. M., Geiger, X. J., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Perez, E. A. (2015). Folate receptor-α (FOLR1) expression and function in triple negative tumors. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0122209. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122209

McGhan, L. J., McCullough, A. E., Protheroe, C. A., Dueck, A. C., Lee, J. J., Nunez-Nateras, R., … Cunliffe, H. E., & Pockaj, B. A. (2014). Androgen receptor-positive triple negative breast cancer: A unique breast cancer subtype. Annals of Surgical Oncology, 21, 361-367. doi: 10.1245/s10434-013-3260-7

Fan, P., Agboke, F. A., Cunliffe, H. E., Ramos, P., & Jordan, V. C. (2014). A molecular model for the mechanism of acquired tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer. European Journal of Cancer, 50(16), 2866-2876. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2014.08.011

Reese, J. M., Suman, V. J., Subramaniam, M., Wu, X., Negron, V., Gingery, A., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Hawse, J. R. (2014). ERβ1: Characterization, prognosis, and evaluation of treatment strategies in ERα-positive and -negative breast cancer. BMC Cancer, 14, 749. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-14-749

Ramos, P., Karnezis, A. N., Craig, D. W., Sekulic, A., Russell, M. L., Hendricks, W. P. D., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Trent, J. M. (2014). Small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type, displays frequent inactivating germline and somatic mutations in SMARCA4. Nature Genetics, 46(5), 427-429. doi: 10.1038/ng.2928

Fan, P., Cunliffe, H. E., Griffith, O. L., Agboke, F. A., Ramos, P., Gray, J. W., & Jordan, V. C. (2014). Identification of gene regulation patterns underlying both oestrogen- and tamoxifen-stimulated cell growth through global gene expression profiling in breast cancer cells. European Journal of Cancer, 50(16), 2877-2886. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2014.08.010

Ramos, P., Karnezis, A. N., Hendricks, W. P. D., Wang, Y., Tembe, W., Zismann, V. L., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Trent, J. M. (2014). Loss of the tumor suppressor SMARCA4 in small cell carcinoma of the ovary, hypercalcemic type (SCCOHT). Rare Diseases, 2(1), e967148. doi: 10.4161/2167549X.2014.967148

Rowton, M., Ramos, P., Anderson, D. M., Rhee, J. M., Cunliffe, H. E., & Rawls, A. (2013). Regulation of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition by PARAXIS during somitogenesis. Developmental Dynamics, 242, 1332-1344.

Katchman, B. A., Ocal, I. T., Cunliffe, H. E., Chang, Y.-H., Hostetter, G., Watanabe, A., … Lake, D. F. (2013). Expression of quiescin sulfhydryl oxidase 1 is associated with a highly invasive phenotype and correlates with a poor prognosis in Luminal B breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research, 15, R28. doi: 10.1186/bcr3407

Nokes, B. T., Cunliffe, H. E., LaFleur, B., Mount, D., Livingston, R. B., Futscher, B. W., & Lang, J. E. (2013). In vitro assessment of the inflammatory breast cancer cell line SUM 149: Discovery of 2 single nucleotide polymorphisms in the RNase L Gene. Journal of Cancer, 4(2), 104-116. doi: 10.7150/jca.5002

Cunliffe, H. E., Jiang, Y., Fornace, K. M., Yang, F., & Meltzer, P. S. (2012). PAR6B is required for tight junction formation and activated PKCζ localization in breast cancer. American Journal of Cancer Research, 2(5), 478-491.

Asmann, Y. W., Necela, B. M., Kalari, K. R., Hossain, A., Baker, T. R., Carr, J. M., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Thompson, E. A. (2012). Detection of redundant fusion transcripts as biomarkers or disease-specific therapeutic targets in breast cancer. Cancer Research, 72(8), 1921-1928. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3142

Holley, T., Lenkiewicz, E., Evers, L., Tembe, W., Ruiz, C., Gsponer, J. R., … Cunliffe, H. E., … Barrett, M. T. (2012). Deep clonal profiling of formalin fixed paraffin embedded clinical samples. PLoS ONE, 7(1), e50586. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050586

Kimbung, S., Biskup, E., Johansson, I., Aaltonen, K., Ottosson-Wadlund, A., Gruvberger-Saal, S., Cunliffe, H. E., … Hedenfalk, I. (2012). Co-targeting of the PI3K pathway improves the response of BRCA1 deficient breast cancer cells to PARP1 inhibition. Cancer Letters, 319, 232-241. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2012.01.015

Ariazi, E. A., Cunliffe, H. E., Lewis-Wambi, J. S., Slifker, M. J., Willis, A. L., Ramos, P., … Jordan, V. C. (2011). Estrogen induces apoptosis in estrogen deprivation-resistant breast cancer through stress responses as identified by global gene expression across time. PNAS, 108(47), 18879-18886. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1115188108

Ariazi, E. A., Brailoiu, E., Yerrum, S., Shupp, H. A., Slifker, M. J., Cunliffe, H. E., Black, M. A., … Jordan, V. C. (2010). The G protein-coupled receptor GPR30 inhibits proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells. Cancer Research, 70(3), 1184-1194. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-3068

Rennstam, K., Ringberg, A., Cunliffe, H. E., Olsson, H., Landberg, G., & Hedenfalk, I. (2010). Genomic alterations in histopathologically normal breast tissue from BRCA1 mutation carriers may be caused by BRCA1 haploinsufficiency. Genes Chromosomes & Cancer, 49(1), 78-90. doi: 10.1002/gcc.20723

Willis, A. L., Tran, N. L., Chatigny, J. M., Charlton, N., Vu, H., Brown, S. A. N., Black, M. A., … Cunliffe, H. E. (2008). The fibroblast growth factor-inducible 14 receptor is highly expressed in HER2-positive breast tumors and regulates breast cancer cell invasive capacity. Molecular Cancer Research, 6(5), 725-734. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-08-0005

Lewis-Wambi, J. S., Cunliffe, H. E., Kim, H. R., Willis, A. L., & Jordan, V. C. (2008). Overexpression of CEACAM6 promotes migration and invasion of oestrogen-deprived breast cancer cells. European Journal of Cancer, 44(12), 1770-1779. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2008.05.016

Winkles, J. A., Tran, N. L., Brown, S. A. N., Stains, N., Cunliffe, H. E., & Berens, M. E. (2007). Role of TWEAK and Fn14 in tumor biology. Frontiers in Bioscience, 12, 2761-2771.

Wilderman, P. J., Vasil, A. I., Johnson, Z., Wilson, M. J., Cunliffe, H. E., Lamont, I. L., & Vasil, M. L. (2001). Characterization of an endoprotease (PrpL) encoded by a PvdS-regulated gene in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Infection & Immunity, 69(9), 5385-5394.

Porteous, S., Torban, E., Cho, N.-P., Cunliffe, H. E., Chua, L. J., McNoe, L. A., Ward, T. A., … Yun, K., … Eccles, M. R. (2000). Primary renal hypoplasia in humans and mice with PAX2 mutations: Evidence of increased apoptosis in fetal kidneys of PAX2(1NEU)+/-mutant mice. Human Molecular Genetics, 9(1), 1-11.

Cunliffe, H. E., McNoe, L. A., Ward, T. A., Devriendt, K., Brunner, H. G., & Eccles, M. R. (1998). The prevalence of PAX2 mutations in patients with isolated colobomas or colobomas associated with urogenital anomalies. Journal of Medical Genetics, 35(10), 806-812.

Stayner, C. K., Cunliffe, H. E., Ward, T. A., & Eccles, M. R. (1998). Cloning and characterization of the human PAX2 promoter. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 273(39), 25472-25479.

McConnell, M. J., Cunliffe, H. E., Chua, L. J., Ward, T. A., & Eccles, M. R. (1997). Differential regulation of the human Wilms-tumour suppressor gene (WT1) promoter by two isoforms of PAX2. Oncogene, 14(22), 2689-2700. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1201114

Schimmenti, L. A., Cunliffe, H. E., McNoe, L. A., Ward, T. A., French, M., Shim, H. H., … Eccles, M. R. (1997). Further delineation of renal-coloboma syndrome in patients with extreme variability of phenotype and identical PAX2 mutations. American Journal of Human Genetics, 60(4), 869-878.

Ochsner, O. A., Johnson, Z., Lamont, I. L., Cunliffe, H. E., & Vasil, M. L. (1996). Exotoxin A production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa requires the iron-regulated pvdS gene encoding an alternative sigma factor. Molecular Microbiology, 21(5), 1019-1028. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2958.1996.481425.x

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