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Dr Elisabeth Phillips

Elisabeth Phillips

Research Fellow

BSc(Hons)(Sheffield) PhD(Birmingham)

Email elisabeth.phillips@otago.ac.nz
Tel +64 3 364 0557

Research interests

Dr Elisabeth Phillips is an emerging cancer researcher who has research interests in cancer, particularly the tumour microenvironment and therapy resistance.

Cancer does not develop in isolation. A milieu of other cells, extracellular matrix component and physical stressors surround cancers as they develop and grow, creating a permissive environment for the initiation, growth and metastasis of cancer. Adipose tissue is present within the tumour microenvironment of several invasive cancers. Adipocytes have the ability to secrete a plethora of chemical signals and can form physical interactions with surrounding cells. This ‘cross-talk’ between cancer and adipocytes enables change of phenotype of both the cancer and the adipocytes, which is thought to be exacerbated under obesogenic conditions. The adipocytes within the tumour microenvironment that display this activated phenotype are named Cancer Associated Adipocytes (CAA).

Our research has used cutting-edge molecular techniques to probe this dynamic cellular interaction in vitro and in clinical samples, with the aim of finding underlying mechanisms that have the potential to be exploited for targeted therapy.

We have used in vitro models with primary human breast adipocytes cultured together with cancer cells and used a combination of OMICs technologies to investigate changes within the breast cancer cells. We have also used mass-spectrometry based proteomics to profile the changes that occur in the secreted factors released by the adipocytes after. Using this data, we are working to identify how to exploit CAAs to target tumours more effectively through studying the pathways that are fundamental to their pro-tumour functions in vitro and in people with cancer through clinical samples.

In addition, we, in collaboration with Dr Khoon Lim (Christchurch REgenerative and Tissue Engineering group), are further developing an in vitro, 3-dimensional model that we will use to investigate the CAA: Cancer interaction using a combination of cell and molecular biology approaches.

Postgraduate supervision

Current PhD students

Student: Eleanor Burgess
Thesis title: The role of ascorbate in glioma
Supervisors: Gabi Dachs, Elisabeth Philies, Bridget Robinson and Margreet Vissers

Student: Rebekah Crake
Thesis title: Local and systemic effects of adipocyte-secreted factors in breast cancer 
Supervisors: Margaret Currie, Elisabeth Phillips, Matthew Strother, Bridget Robinson

Student: Jessika Wise
Thesis title: 3D breast tumour models for drug discovery
Supervisors: Elisabeth Phillips, Khoon Lim, Margaret Currie and Tim Woodfield

Completed PhD students

Student: Christina Wohlrab
Thesis title: The role of ascorbate in controlling hypoxia factors in renal cell carcinoma 
Supervisors: Gabi Dachs, Elisabeth Phillips, Bridget Robinson, Margreet Vissers 
Graduated: 2018

Completed MSc student

Student: Mohini Puri
Thesis title: Role of cancer associated adipocytes (CAA) and tumour associated collagen structures (TACS) in breast cancer cell invasion and metastasis 
Supervisors: Margaret Currie, Elisabeth Phillips
Graduated: 2019

Completed BBiomedSc(Hons) students

Student: Rebekah Crake
Thesis title: Exploring molecular links between obesity and breast cancer 
Supervisors: Logan Walker, Elisabeth Phillips, Margaret Currie
Graduated: 2015

Student: Morgan Jones
Thesis title: Does fat provide energy for breast tumour cell invasion and metastasis? 
Supervisors: Margaret Currie, Elisabeth Phillips, Mark Hampton
Graduated: 2015

Student: Anishah Mandani
Thesis title: Development of a metabolic syndrome model of breast cancer 
Supervisors: Gabi Dachs, Elisabeth Phillips, Margaret Currie
Graduated: 2015

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Publications

Stamp, L. K., Cameron, V. A., Woodfield, T. B. F., Walker, L., Currie, M., Templeton, E., Pilbrow, A. P., Tabakakis, K., Phillips, E., & Lim, K. S. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on health research in New Zealand: A case study of a research-intensive campus. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03036758.2020.1867202

Crake, R. L. I., Strother, M. R., Phillips, E., Doogue, M. P., Zhang, M., Frampton, C. M. A., Robinson, B. A., & Currie, M. J. (2021). Influence of serum inflammatory cytokines on cytochrome P450 drug metabolising activity during breast cancer chemotherapy: A patient feasibility study. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 5648. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85048-1

Crake, R., Strother, M., Morrin, H., Smith, A., Phillips, E., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2020). An exploratory patient study assessing CYP450 enzyme function in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. New Zealand Medical Journal, 133(1524), (pp. 144). Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Wohlrab, C., Kuiper, C., Vissers, M. C. M., Phillips, E., Robinson, B. A., & Dachs, G. U. (2019). Ascorbate modulates the hypoxic pathway by increasing intracellular activity of the HIF hydroxylases in renal cell carcinoma cells. Hypoxia, 7, 17-31. doi: 10.2147/hp.S201643

Crake, R. L. I., Phillips, E., Kleffmann, T., & Currie, M. J. (2019). Co-culture with human breast adipocytes differentially regulates protein abundance in breast cancer cells. Cancer Geonomics & Proteomics, 16(5), 319-332. doi: 10.21873/cgp.20137

Journal - Research Article

Stamp, L. K., Cameron, V. A., Woodfield, T. B. F., Walker, L., Currie, M., Templeton, E., Pilbrow, A. P., Tabakakis, K., Phillips, E., & Lim, K. S. (2021). Impact of COVID-19 on health research in New Zealand: A case study of a research-intensive campus. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/03036758.2020.1867202

Crake, R. L. I., Strother, M. R., Phillips, E., Doogue, M. P., Zhang, M., Frampton, C. M. A., Robinson, B. A., & Currie, M. J. (2021). Influence of serum inflammatory cytokines on cytochrome P450 drug metabolising activity during breast cancer chemotherapy: A patient feasibility study. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 5648. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-85048-1

Wohlrab, C., Kuiper, C., Vissers, M. C. M., Phillips, E., Robinson, B. A., & Dachs, G. U. (2019). Ascorbate modulates the hypoxic pathway by increasing intracellular activity of the HIF hydroxylases in renal cell carcinoma cells. Hypoxia, 7, 17-31. doi: 10.2147/hp.S201643

Crake, R. L. I., Phillips, E., Kleffmann, T., & Currie, M. J. (2019). Co-culture with human breast adipocytes differentially regulates protein abundance in breast cancer cells. Cancer Geonomics & Proteomics, 16(5), 319-332. doi: 10.21873/cgp.20137

Wohlrab, C., Vissers, M. C. M., Phillips, E., Morrin, H., Robinson, B. A., & Dachs, G. U. (2018). The association between ascorbate and the hypoxia-inducible factors in human renal cell carcinoma requires a functional von Hippel-Lindau protein. Frontiers in Oncology, 8, 574. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2018.00574

Phillips, E., Horniblow, R. D., Poole, V., Bedford, M., Ward, D. G., Kirkham, A. J., … Tselspis, C. (2018). A potential role for hepcidin in obesity-driven colorectal tumourigenesis. Oncology Reports, 39(1), 392-400. doi: 10.3892/or.2017.6062

Buss, L. A., Mandani, A., Phillips, E., Scott, N. J. A., Currie, M. J., & Dachs, G. U. (2018). Characterisation of a mouse model of breast cancer with metabolic syndrome. In Vivo, 32(5), 1071-1080. doi: 10.21873/invivo.11348

Robinson, B., Currie, M., Phillips, E., Dachs, G., Strother, M., Morrin, H., Davey, V., & Frampton, C. (2017). Body mass index (BMI): Association with clinicopathological factors and outcome of women with newly diagnosed breast cancer in New Zealand. New Zealand Medical Journal, 130(1451), 46-56. Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Wohlrab, C., Phillips, E., & Dachs, G. U. (2017). Vitamin C transporters in cancer: Current understanding and gaps in knowledge. Frontiers in Oncology, 7, 74. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2017.00074

Dachs, G. U., Phillips, E., Phung, Y., Dyer, A., Willis, J. A., Currie, M. J., & Robinson, B. A. (2015). Tumour growth in mice resistant to diet-induced obesity. Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 4(2), 42-49.

Flett, T., Campbell, E. J., Phillips, E., Vissers, M. C. M., & Dachs, G. U. (2014). Gulonolactone addition to human hepatocellular carcinoma cells with gene transfer of gulonolactone oxidase restores ascorbate biosynthesis and reduces hypoxia inducible factor 1. Biomedicines, 2(1), 98-109. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines2010098

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Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Crake, R., Strother, M., Morrin, H., Smith, A., Phillips, E., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2020). An exploratory patient study assessing CYP450 enzyme function in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. New Zealand Medical Journal, 133(1524), (pp. 144). Retrieved from https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Wise, J., Lim, K., Morrin, H., Woodfield, T., Currie, M., & Phillips, E. (2018). Engineering a 3D model system for studying breast cancer-adipocyte interactions within the tumour microenvironment. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference. Retrieved from http://www.nzsoncology.org.nz/

Crake, R., Strother, M., Morrin, H., Smith, A., Phillips, E., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2018). An exploratory breast cancer patient study to assess the impact of obesity-related inflammation and physical activity on chemotherapy drug metabolism. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference. Retrieved from http://www.nzsoncology.org.nz/

Crake, R., Phillips, E., Morrin, H., Strother, M., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2018). Transwell co-culture with human breast adipocytes alters the proteome expression profiles of mcf-7 and mda-mb-231 human breast cancer cells. ESMO Open, 3(Suppl. 2), (pp. A111-A112). doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2018-EACR25.268

Wohlrab, C., Kuiper, C., Vissers, M. C. M., Phillips, E., Robinson, B., & Dachs, G. U. (2018). Ascorbate modulates the hypoxic pathway by increasing activity of HIF hydroxylases. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference. Retrieved from http://www.nzsoncology.org.nz/

Phillips, E., Kleffmann, T., Morrin, H., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2018). Differential secretome analysis of cancer-associated adipocytes (CAA) and mature adipocytes to identify adipocyte-driven micro-environmental regulators of breast cancer progression. ESMO Open, 3(Suppl. 2), (pp. A348). doi: 10.1136/esmoopen-2018-EACR25.820

Phillips, E., Lim, K., Woodfield, T., & Currie, M. J. (2017). Towards 3D culture models for the investigation of adipocyte/tumour interaction. New Zealand Medical Journal, 130(1459), (pp. 79). Retrieved from http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal

Flett, T., Campbell, E., Phillips, E., Vissers, M. C. M., & Dachs, G. U. (2014). Does gene transfer of gulono-lactone oxidase into human hepatocellular carcinoma cells restore ascorbate biosynthesis? Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 105th Annual Meeting. Retrieved from http://www.aacr.org/home/scientists/meetings--workshops/aacr-annual-meeting-2014.aspx

Phillips, E. (2013). Activated adipocytes modulate response to chemotherapy in breast cancer cell lines. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society for Oncology (NZSO) Conference. Retrieved from http://www.nzsoncology.org.nz/conference_2013

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Conference Contribution - Poster Presentation (not in published proceedings)

Wise, J., Lim, K., Currie, M., Morrin, H., Woodfield, T., & Phillips, E. (2018, August). Development of a 3D breast cancer-adipocyte model: A tool for studying tumour microenvironment interactions in vitro. Poster session presented at the Queenstown Molecular Biology (QMB) Meetings, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Crake, R., Kleffmann, T., Morrin, H., Strother, M., Robinson, B., Phillips, E., & Currie, M. (2018, August). Cancer-associated adipocytes alter protein expression profiles of human breast cancer cells in vitro. Poster session presented at the Queenstown Molecular Biology (QMB) Meetings, Queenstown, New Zealand.

Ernst, C., Phillips, E., Morrin, H., Vissers, M., Robinson, B., & Dachs, G. (2015, October). The role of ascorbate in controlling hypoxia factors in renal cell carcinoma. Poster session presented at the Otago Spotlight Series: Cancer Research, Wellington, New Zealand.

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Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Crake, R., Strother, M., Morrin, H., Smith, A., Phillips, E., Robinson, B., & Currie, M. (2018, November). An exploratory breast cancer patient study to assess the impact of obesity-related inflammation and physical activity on chemotherapy drug metabolism. Verbal presentation at the Women’s Wellbeing Symposium, Dunedin, New Zealand.

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Awarded Doctoral Degree

Phillips, E. (2012). Tamoxifen resistance in breast cancer: A proteomic approach (PhD). University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. Retrieved from http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/3270/

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