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Clocktower. Monday 31 March 2014 3:08pm

A University of Otago study targeting the immune response to anti-oestrogen therapy is among three newly funded innovative research projects which share the goal of improving and ultimately ensuring breast cancer survival in New Zealand.

Anita-Dunbier-image Dr Anita Dunbier

Dr Anita Dunbier of the Department of Biochemistry and her research team have gained $200,000 for their two-year project. It is being funded through the Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand initiative, which is a joint partnership between the Breast Cancer Research Trust, the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Despite a relatively good prognosis and improvements in survival brought about by early detection and anti-oestrogen therapy, oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer still kills more women than any other type of breast cancer. Dr Dunbier and her research team have previously found that women with high levels of immune cells within their tumours have poorer outcomes.

To find ways to improve the response of these tumours to therapy, they are now aiming to trial a short treatment of the common anti-inflammatory drug aspirin together with standard anti-oestrogen therapy. The goal will be to determine whether administering these two drugs together decreases the number of immune cells entering the tumour and the rate at which the tumour grows.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world – over 660 women lose their lives to breast cancer each year and more than 2000 New Zealand women are diagnosed with oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer each year.

Dr Dunbier is a member of the University's Centre for Translational Cancer Research, which is one of the University's 14 Research Centres. Formal designation as a Research Centre signals the excellence and coherence of the research group's endeavours.

For further information, contact:

Dr Anita Dunbier
Department of Biochemistry
University of Otago

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