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Otago researcher selected to join global task force focused on cancer-causing potential of chemicals


Thursday 11 July 2013 3:25pm

A University of Otago scientist is joining forces with more than 350 cancer researchers from prominent research institutions in 31 countries to tackle the complex nature of cancer causation, and the potential for new forms of targeted drug therapies.

Dr Linda Gulliver of the University’s Faculty of Medicine was recruited into the initiative (known as the “The Halifax Project”) in late December 2012. Dr Gulliver is one of only two New Zealand scientists selected to take part in the project.

Linda Gulliver
Dr Linda Gulliver

The project involves two separate task forces that will be meeting to hold two important workshops in Halifax, Canada in early August, which Dr Gulliver will attend.

The first task force will take what has been learnt so far by the scientists and doctors about cancer’s complexity, to investigate an entirely new approach to drug therapy.

The second task force will assess whether or not everyday exposures to mixtures of commonly encountered chemicals in the environment have a role to play in cancer causation. Dr. Gulliver is a member of the latter task force.

This collaborative international initiative is being led by a Non-Governmental Organisation called “Getting to Know Cancer”.

Within the project, Dr. Gulliver will be working in one of 12 cross-functional teams of scientists that will each be focused on a different aspect of cancer biology. Both task forces will produce a series of over-arching reviews that are to be published in planned special issues of two top-tier peer reviewed cancer journals; Oxford Journal’s Carcinogenesis and Elsevier’s Seminars in Cancer Biology.

The reviews will collectively assess and prioritise the molecular targets that are instrumental in cancer formation, identify environmental cancer triggers in the form of chemicals and chemical mixtures humans are exposed to on a daily basis, and review the potential for novel targeted therapies.

Dr. Gulliver is a member of the ‘Sustained Proliferative Signalling’ team, which is looking at one of the hallmarks of cancer cells; their ability to grow and multiply in an uncontrolled manner that is prevented in normally functioning cells.

Her research interests lie in the suspected role of oestrogen and different forms of oestrogen receptor proteins in initiating ovarian epithelial cancer - work that originated from her PhD thesis in the Department of Anatomy.

Dr Gulliver says that in the project she will be looking at the evidence for different environmental chemical mixtures to act as oestrogen mimics, even at very low exposures.

“I’m also curious to explore whether repeated exposures to these chemicals overtime have a cumulative effect. My own research has shown that the hormone oestrogen itself, is able to accumulate in ovarian tissue”.

About Getting to Know Cancer

Getting to Know Cancer Cooperative Ltd is a public interest, non-profit organisation based in Nova Scotia, Canada that was launched in 2011 with a mission to instigate applied integrative cancer research. The organisation’s inception was inspired by a number of cancer-related deaths in the families of the two cofounders, and they have since been focused on finding ways to address a number of systemic barriers that they believe are slowing down the progress of cancer research. For more information, please visit the organisation’s website

For more information, contact:

Dr. Linda Gulliver
Faculty of Medicine
University of Otago
Tel 64 3 470 4689
Mob 64 21 149 9047

Leroy Lowe, President and Cofounder
Getting to Know Cancer
36 Arthur Street
Truro, Nova Scotia
Canada B2N 1X5
Tel  902 893 5362 
Mob 902 890 3070

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