A young Dunedin student researcher's summer project has
proven something that could have major ramifications for women.
Hannah Palmer (22), a student of pharmacology in her final
year at the University of Otago, spent the summer studying
how fatty tissue can make breast tumour cells more invasive.
A New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation spokeswoman said
obesity was known to pose an increased risk for breast cancer
and to lead to a worse prognosis for women with breast
cancer, but few published studies had investigated the role
of fatty tissue surrounding tumours.
Through isolating a particular protein secreted by fatty
tissue and testing it on cancerous and non-cancerous cells,
Miss Palmer proved the protein contributed to the increased
invasive potential of a tumour.
She was now working on having her research published.
Miss Palmer's research was part of a summer studentship with
the University of Otago's Mackenzie Cancer Research Group
(MCRG) in Christchurch.
Supervisor Dr Elisabeth Phillips said there had been
considerable interest in Miss Palmer's research.
''It's a worthwhile and exciting pilot study and we would
like to investigate our findings further to examine what the
adipocytes [fatty tissue cells] located near tumours are
doing to promote breast cancer cells to become more invasive
Anna Bashford, oncologist and medical adviser to the New
Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation, which funded Miss Palmer's
summer studentship, said she had produced an outstanding
piece of work that could hold its own anywhere in the world.
''I don't doubt that other researchers will use her discovery
as the basis of new studies into how to prevent breast
cancers metastasising [spreading].''
Miss Palmer, originally of Christchurch, was awarded Otago
University's prize for best overall project (scientific
content and presentation) for a summer study.
Today is World Cancer Day.