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Contact Details

64 3 479 5060
Associate Professor
Department of Pathology (Dunedin)
BSc(Hons) PhD
Research summary
Translational biomarker discovery in breast and ovarian cancer
  • GENE 360 Special Topics in Genetics
  • GENE 411 Current Topics in Genetics (Course Convenor)
  • MELS 304 Principles of Pathology
  • MICN 201 Medicine Second Year
  • MICN 301 Medicine Third Year
  • PATH 201 Foundations in Human Pathology
  • PATH 301 Advanced Pathology
  • PATH 302 Cancer Biology (Course Convenor)
  • 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


The focus of Associate Professor 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:

  • Defining drivers of triple negative breast cancer metastasis
  • The molecular underpinnings of inflammatory breast cancer
  • Identifying tractable therapeutic targets in uncommon and rare ovarian tumours
  • Understanding drivers of chemoresistance in epithelial ovarian cancer

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


Associate Professor 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, Associate Professor 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


Jasiak, A., Anderson, L., Neumann, S., Wasag, B., Weeks, R., Walker, L., Cunliffe, H., & Ratajska, M. (2023, September). Adaptive homeostasis as a possible non-genetic regulator of BRCA1/2 splicing in ovarian cancer. Poster session presented at the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference, Napier, New Zealand. Conference Contribution - Poster Presentation (not in published proceedings)

Ratajska, M., Sette, C., & Cunliffe, H. E. (2023). 365 days of progress in cancer genetics. Frontiers in Oncology, 13. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2023.1270902 Journal - Research Other

McQueen, S., Ware, A., Cunliffe, H., & McDonald, F. (2023). Overexpression of the alpha subunit of the epithelial sodium channel in MDAMB231 breast cancer cells reduces cell migration and proliferation. Cancer Research, 83(Suppl. 5), P2-16-07. doi: 10.1158/1538-7445.SABCS22-P2-16-07 Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Reader, K. L., John-McHaffie, S., Zellhuber-McMillan, S., Jowett, T., Mottershead, D. G., Cunliffe, H. E., & Gold, E. J. (2023). Activin B and activin C have opposing effects on prostate cancer progression and cell growth. Cancers, 15, 147. doi: 10.3390/cancers15010147 Journal - Research Article

McQueen, S. R. A., Cunliffe, H. E., & McDonald, F. J. (2022). Alpha-ENaC overexpression in MDAMB231 breast cancer cells reduces cell migration and proliferation. In L. Wilson, H. Harcombe, P. Jayakaran, L. Burga, J. Antony, K. Morgaine, M. Garelja, A. Middleton, M. Anwar & T. Milne (Eds.), Proceedings of the 263rd Otago Medical School Research Society (OMSRS) Meeting: PhD Student Speaker Awards. Dunedin, New Zealand: OMSRS. Retrieved from Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

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