Associate Dean (Postgraduate Studies)MSc(Hons)(Cant), PhD(Auck)
Associate Professor Margaret Currie is interested in how the tumour microenvironment affects tumour growth, tumour cell metastasis and tumour response to therapy.
The local tumour microenvironment is the milieu within which the tumour develops, and includes tumour blood vessels, other cells types (e.g. immune cells, fibroblasts, adipocytes), soluble growth factors and signalling molecules. All the various components of the tumour microenvironment can influence tumour growth and spread and, conversely, tumour cells can influence the local tumour microenvironment.
A further layer of complexity exists because the wider tumour microenvironment (i.e. the body within which the tumour develops) alters with age and health, and is affected by systemic changes in metabolism, hormones and immunity.
The Mackenzie Cancer Research Group has been investigating the contribution of stromal cells and the tumour microenvironment to human tumour biology since the inception of our research group in 1998. Initially, their research focused on tumour blood vessel development and anti-angiogenic therapies. However, since 2009 Associate Professor Currie's interests have expanded to include the contribution to tumour progression made by tumour infiltrating immune cell populations, breast cancer stem cell-like populations, and obesity-related factors.
Adipocytes in tumour stroma
In various human cancers, obesity is linked to invasive tumours that are resistant to therapy and have poor outcome. We are culturing human fat cells (adipocytes) and tumour cells together, to find out how adipocytes alter tumour cell phenotype and response to therapy. We are also studying tumour samples from normal weight and obese breast cancer patients to better understand the role adipocytes play in promoting aggressive tumour growth and spread, and identify patients likely to benefit from additional treatment during cancer therapy.
Circulating immune cell populations and tumour infiltrating immune cells in human cancers
Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas (cSCC) are common in NZ, and most are simply treated. However, a small proportion (~5%) of these skin cancers grow aggressively, spread to other organs, and cause death. In patients who have had an organ transplant, we have identified blood vessel and immune characteristics that are correlated to cSCC aggressiveness. We are currently investigating whether these characteristics also account for the aggressiveness of cSCCs in non-transplant patients. A greater understanding of the biology of these tumours may help clinicians identify at-risk patients who could benefit from additional treatment and close surveillance. In addition, the specific immune and blood vessel factors identified are potential targets for developing novel cancer treatments.
- The Mackenzie Charitable Foundation
- Cancer Society of New Zealand (& CSNZ Canterbury-West Coast Division)
- University of Otago Christchurch Cancer Fellowship
- New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation
- University of Otago
Selected Recent Publications
- Seddon AR, Hock BD, Miller AP, Frei LP, Pearson JF, McKenzie JL, Simcock JW, Currie MJ. Cutaneous squamous cell carcinomas with markers of increased metastatic risk are associated with elevated numbers of neutrophils and/or granulocytic myeloid derived suppressor cells. Advanced ePub. Journal of Dermatological Science (2016), DOI 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2016.04.013.
- Slatter TL, Royds JA, Pilbrow AP, Ahn A, Morrin H, Frampton C, Russell A, Moravec CS, Sweet WE, Tang WH, Currie MJ, Hung NA. The rs11515 polymorphism is more frequent and associated with aggressive breast tumors with increased ANRIL and decreased p16INK4A expression. Frontiers in Oncology; 5, 306, 2015. (Times cited=0).
- BD Hock, JL McKenzie, NB Cross, MJ Currie. Dynamic changes in myeloid derived suppressor cell subsets following renal transplant: A prospective study. Transplant Immunology; 32(3), 164-171. June 2015 (IF 1.8). (Times cited=0).
- Richardson AK, Currie MJ, Robinson BA, Morrin H, Phung Y, Pearson JF, Anderson TP, Potter JD, Walker LC. Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus in breast cancer. PLoS One. 2015, Feb 27; 10(2):e0118989. (IF 3.5). (Times cited=1).
Donovan, K. A., Beaglehole, B., Frampton, C. M. A., Currie, M., Boden, J. M., & Jordan, J. (2023). Tōku Oranga: The subjective wellbeing and psychological functioning of postgraduate and medical students in Ōtautahi Christchurch. New Zealand Medical Journal/Te ara tika o te hauora hapori, 136(1586), 51-62. Retrieved from https://journal.nzma.org.nz/
Yunianto, I., Currie, M., Chitcholtan, K., & Sykes, P. (2023). Potential drug repurposing of ruxolitinib to inhibit the JAK/STAT pathway for the treatment of patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology Research, 49, 2563-2574. doi: 10.1111/jog.15761
Symonds, E. K. C., Black, B., Brown, A., Meredith, I., Currie, M. J., Hally, K. E., & Danielson, K. M. (2023). Adipose derived stem cell extracellular vesicles modulate primary human macrophages to an anti-inflammatory phenotype in vitro. Journal of Extracellular Biology, 2, e104. doi: 10.1002/jex2.104
Symonds, E., Hally, K., Smith, R., Brown, A., Currie, M., Phillips, E., … Dennett, E., Meredith, I., & Danielson, K. (2022, August). Messengers in the microenvironment: The role of extracellular vesicles in fat graft retention for breast reconstruction. Verbal presentation at the Cancer Satellite Meeting: Queenstown Research Week, Queenstown, New Zealand.
Symonds, E., Hally, K., Brown, A., Currie, M., Dennett, E., Meredith, I., & Danielson, K. (2022, August). ADSC-EVs and macrophage polarisation in fat grafting for breast reconstruction post-mastectomy. Verbal presentation at the Cancer Satellite Meeting: Queenstown Research Week, Queenstown, New Zealand.