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Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer among women, with approximately 13,000 new cases diagnosed each year in Australia. Our Breast Biology and Cancer Unit are researching the basis of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin this high incidence of breast cancer. We use a variety of mouse models, together with human breast tissue, to study how key risk factors, including menstrual cycling and breast density, lead to increased susceptibility of the mammary gland to cancer. We focus on how these risk factors affect the ability of the immune system to protect this unique tissue against carcinogens and other cancer initiating factors. The overarching objective of our research is to provide therapies that reduce a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

In addition to studies on breast cancer susceptibility, we also conduct mastitis research. Mastitis is a common inflammatory disease in lactating women that causes pain, fever, low milk supply and leads many to cease breastfeeding. This research explores the cellular mechanisms that lead to inflammation, and investigates potential therapies to quickly and effectively stop the symptoms of mastitis.

The Breast Biology and Cancer Unit was established at the BHI in 2011 as part of the collaborative links established at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH).

We welcome enquiries from students about potential Honours and PhD research projects.

Other related websites: INFORMD (INformation FORum on Mammographic Density) and the Australian Breast Cancer Research website.

Researchers

Students

Student Alumni (since 2017)

NameDegreeYear AwardedThesis titleSupervisors
Vahid AtashgaranPhD, The University of Adelaide. Dean's Commendation for Doctoral Thesis Excellence.2018Hormone and transcription factor regulation of cytokines in the mammary glandIngman W, Dasari P, Barry S
Siti Noor DinPhD, The University of Adelaide.2017Effect of C1q null mutation on mammary gland developmentIngman W, Robertson S

 

Macrophages in mammographic density

Macrophages are cells with diverse roles in immune responses against invading pathogens and cancer, and tissue development and homeostasis. This project will explore the function of macrophages in establishing breast density, which is a major risk factor for breast cancer.

Immune cells in healthy breast tissue

Hormonal regulation of macrophages in the breast

The ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone regulate a variety of cellular pathways in the breast that affect cancer risk. This project will investigate how these hormones regulate macrophages using tissue cultures and histological analysis of breast tissue.

Menstrual Cycling

Macrophages in cycling mammary gland.

Novel approaches to the treatment and prevention of mastitis

Recent studies indicate that antibiotics have limited efficacy in both treating and preventing mastitis. This project will investigate the underlying cause of mastitis using a combination of animal models and cell culture.

Toll-like receptor 4 regulates lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation and lactation insufficiency in a mouse model of mastitis

Glynn DJ, Hutchinson MR, Ingman WV. Toll-like receptor 4 regulates lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation and lactation insufficiency in a mouse model of mastitis. Biol. Reprod.; 2014. May 1;90(5):91.

Macrophage phenotype in the mammary gland fluctuates over the course of the estrous cycle and is regulated by ovarian steroid hormones

Hodson LJ, Chua AC, Evdokiou A, Robertson SA, Ingman WV. Macrophage phenotype in the mammary gland fluctuates over the course of the estrous cycle and is regulated by ovarian steroid hormones. Biol Reprod.; 2013. 19;89(3):65.

Regulation of epithelial cell turnover and macrophage phenotype by epithelial cell-derived transforming growth factor beta1 in the mammary gland

Sun X, Robertson SA, Ingman WV. Regulation of epithelial cell turnover and macrophage phenotype by epithelial cell-derived transforming growth factor beta1 in the mammary gland. Cytokine; 2013. 61(2):377-88.

Dual roles for macrophages in ovarian cycle-associated development and remodelling of the mammary gland epithelium

Chua AC, Hodson LJ, Moldenhauer LM, Robertson SA, Ingman WV. Dual roles for macrophages in ovarian cycle-associated development and remodelling of the mammary gland epithelium. Development; 2010. 137(24):4229-38.

The essential roles of TGFB1 in reproduction

Ingman WV, Robertson SA. The essential roles of TGFB1 in reproduction. Cytokine Growth Factor Rev.; 2009. 20(3):233-9.

BHI Collaborators: Andreas Evdokiou, Tim Price, Amanda Townsend, Ken Pittman, David Walsh, Tim Proudman

External Collaborators: Rik Thompson, University of Melbourne; Fiona Pixley, University of Western Australia;  Kara Britt, University of Melbourne; Sarah Robertson, University of Adelaide; Simon Barry, University of Adelaide; Mark Moore, Calvary North Adelaide Hospital