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Associate Professor Logan Walker

Logan WalkerResearch Associate Professor

MSc(Hons) (Canterbury), PhD (Otago)

Rutherford Discovery Fellow
Co-ordinator, New Zealand Familial Breast Cancer Study

Email logan.walker@otago.ac.nz 
Tel 64 3 364 0544

Research Interests

Associate Professor Logan Walker's primary research is focused on understanding how genetic changes cause an increased risk of cancer and/or affect tumour pathology.

Genetic variation and breast cancer development

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women yet for most women the genetic changes underlying their disease remain undetermined or poorly understood. This research aims to determine the clinical and biological impact of:

  1. DNA sequence variants in known breast cancer susceptibility genes (eg. BRCA1 and BRCA2) 
  2. DNA copy number variants across the genome, in breast cancer development

The New Zealand Familial Breast Cancer Study

The New Zealand Familial Breast Cancer Study commenced in 2013 with the key goal of better understanding DNA sequence changes in genes that alter the risk of developing breast cancer. Genetic testing of breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, has become common practice for patients with a strong family history of the disease. However, a significant proportion of tests result in the detection of a genetic change for which disease association is not known. This study will address this important issue through collaborative links with the international scientific consortia, ENIGMA (Evidence-based Network for the Interpretation of Germline Mutant Alleles) and CIMBA (Consortium of Investigators of Modifiers of BRCA1/2).

The role of germline copy number variation in endometrial cancer risk and development

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in New Zealand and the incidence is increasing as the population ages. Mutations in the mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and PMS2 are known to confer increased risk in a proportion of endometrial cancer cases. There are several other genes encoding proteins that act in the mismatch repair pathway, but evidence for the involvement of these and other genes in endometrial cancer susceptibility is currently limited. We are utilising large genetic datasets to identify common and rare genetic changes in these genes that are associated with endometrial cancer risk.

Molecular markers of prognosis for colorectal cancer patients

Colorectal cancer (CRC) prognosis is currently predicted by clinicopathological stage which confers significant prognostic variability. Substantial progress has occurred in the understanding of the molecular basis of CRC. Molecular techniques offer promise in improving staging and therefore targeting of therapy. However, limitations in current technology have seen few molecular biomarkers implemented in clinical practice. The Mackenzie Cancer Research Group are using a powerful new mRNA in situ hybridisation technology (RNAscope) that measures RNA in histologically preserved cells while overcoming limitations of existing techniques. This research aims to establish RNAscope as a valid method to identify mRNA markers for CRC prognosis.