Let's Walk the Walk for Breast Cancer, Dunedin!

Join us in Dunedin for a night of New Zealand’s finest fashion from top designers!

Be hosted by Shane Cortese, enjoy food and beverages served throughout the night, live and silent auctions and hear the latest research developments from our Beast Cancer Cure researcher.

One Night. One Show. Top Designers. All to support research into a cure.

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A New Moo-Vement For Breast Cancer Cure and Dairy Women's Network

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of World Milk Day this June, Breast Cancer Cure (BCC) is once again partnering with Dairy Women’s Network for its new campaign ‘Milk for a Cure’. The new initiative emphasises how a pint sized donation can have a huge impact on the lives of others.

While this year’s World Milk Day might be virtual, we are still raising a glass to all those who love and work the land to bring us the best delicious and nutritious milk.

One woman every three hours is told they have breast cancer and women in the farming community are often in more unique situations that can make accessing treatment and support networks harder.

That’s why the BCC and Dairy Women’s Network are calling on rural communities to rally together in support of their fellow female farmers.

The ‘Milk for a Cure’ initiative encourages members to donate a minimum of 1kg of milk solids per month to Breast Cancer Cure, equating at roughly $5 per kg.

Phillipa Green, CEO of BCC, says this small donation may be a drop in the milk vat for farmers, but when pooled together, can help fund the crucial advancement of breast cancer research. “BCC understands that farmers are constantly busy, so the donation is automatically deducted from their milk cheques and goes directly towards scientific research. A simple step that shows significant support.”

Jules Benton, CEO of The Dairy Women’s Network says, “We have 10,000 active members from around the country and each one of them has a passion for rural life and women’s health. We are so happy to be supporting and contributing to such an important cause that helps all women of New Zealand.”

Green comments, “The impact of an initiative such as ‘Milk for a Cure’ is not only felt now, but will continue to be felt for generations to come and shows the power of a collective force.”

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Challenges of COVID-19

We are all facing significant challenges as we head into week 4 of the COVID-19 lockdown.

At Breast Cancer Cure we care deeply about the health of New Zealanders. We have postponed until the foreseeable future our Fashion for a Cure fundraising events. With more than 90% of our income dependent on events, this leaves Breast Cancer Cure and the life-saving medical research that we exist to fund, as well as lives saved, in a very vulnerable position.

As a result, we have launched a CURE CRISIS APPEAL to ensure we continue to support our scientists and their essential breast cancer research projects.

COVID-19 is an immediate and very real crisis - one we need to collectively fight. While we do that, we continue to lose close to TWO New Zealand women EVERY DAY to breast cancer.

We must fight both. More than ever, we need to ensure our researchers can continue their work.


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New Discovery Seeks to Improve Survival for Breast Cancer Patients at Risk of Recurrence

A team of New Zealand scientists from the University of Auckland, led by Dr Annette Lasham, have identified a novel combination of plasma biomarkers, that could have a pivotal impact on treatment decisions after a diagnosis of breast cancer – all via a simple blood test. 

Fay Sowerby, Chair of Breast Cancer Cure, says that responding to an accurate assessment of recurrence risk in patients with breast cancer is critical to reducing worrying mortality rates.

Lasham, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Pathology at the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, comments, “Prognostic tests that can identify women likely to experience early relapse are urgently required.”

Recently published in the medical journal, Clinical Breast Cancer, her team, including molecular biologist Sandra Fitzgerald and statistics expert Dr Nick Knowlton, have demonstrated that the pre-operative levels of a new plasma RNA marker, miR-923, and the levels of a circulating protein biomarker CA 15-3 at the time of surgery for breast cancer, when combined were strongly associated with patient prognosis, irrespective of treatment after surgery. CA 15-3 has previously been identified as a breast cancer prognostic marker in international studies, but it is not (yet) approved for this type of clinical use in New Zealand and many other countries worldwide.

Lasham says, “Identifying the likelihood of relapse could help patients and their clinicians to make informed, individualised treatment decisions. This novel combination used as a prognostic biomarker test could identify which women might require more aggressive treatment after surgery for breast cancer.”

Phillipa Green, CEO of Breast Cancer Cure, a funder of the project since 2009, adds, “This work is extremely important for the 20% of patients whose cancer recurs one to three years after diagnosis.  It often takes them by surprise so to be able to front foot the likelihood of recurrence will be a huge advancement in breast cancer treatment.”

Lasham adds, “A minimally invasive blood test is affordable and accessible within our constrained health system, so we are excited about the positive impact that these findings could have.”

Green comments, “We welcome the publication of this study. The HRC Breast Cancer Research Partnership continues to fund the project today to validate the results in a much larger group of samples from New Zealand breast cancer patients.”

Sowerby says, “Breast Cancer Cure is dedicated to funding visionary researchers such as Annette so that we continue to make advances across the cancer pathway from prevention to diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment– not only here in New Zealand, but around the world.  We celebrate these findings with Annette and her team, and encourage all New Zealanders to continue to help us in our quest towards a better understanding of breast cancer to make it a survivable disease.”

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Volunteer Profile - Lisa Trant

All the hard work that goes on behind the scenes at our events is supported by wonderful BCC volunteers. They are the heart and soul of our team and we are so grateful for their support.

Lisa Trant has been one of our loyal and active supporters for more than 10 years, so we had a chat with her to find out what it's like being a BCC volunteer.

What motivated you to volunteer for Breast Cancer Cure? 

I went to a Charity Event about 10 years ago for Breast Cancer Cure and saw the volunteers working - it was a time where I had been looking to give something back to the community and I guess the world. I signed up that night.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for Breast Cancer Cure? 

I love working with the team, working behind the scenes to ensure that everyone we host has a great time and that we can raise as much as we can for the valuable research. And I love the commitment to find a cure!! 

What is it like volunteering at Fashion for a Cure? Any highlights or memorable moments? 

Volunteering is so satisfying to me - I work a busy job so, this puts me in a very different space, reminds me to be humble and kind to everyone. One memorable moment was volunteering at the Dunedin Fashion for a Cure - Petra Bagust the host and I were on the same flight and for about 30 mins we thought we were going to be diverted to Christchurch, meaning we wouldn’t make it in time!!!!! We did and it was all good, that was the night I met Debra Fallowfield an amazing Jeweller from Dunedin who had donated a ring to be auctioned off….. Go check out her website/Instagram  … I may or may not have bid on that auction that night ….:) 

Why did you sign up to be one of our very special Breast Cancer Cure Patrons? 

Every little bit helps!

Why did you choose Breast Cancer Cure as the charity you support? 

I wanted to give back and use a skill set I have - organising and people management organising the volunteers for events is something I love.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I don't think volunteers for organisations get the kudos they deserve - Breast Cancer Cure is very grateful for all of our volunteers and some of these events couldn’t happen without the kind nature of these folks - it's so satisfying to give back and to listen to folks stories. We also need more volunteers so if you know anyone who can help please let us know.

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New Breast Cancer Research Funding Announced - Four Scientists Supported

Breast Cancer Cure (BCC), Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) and the Health Research Council (HRC) are pleased to announce that funding has been offered to the following recipients through the Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand partnership. BCC has also made the decision to independently fund an additional piece of research with its focus on prevention. This call for applications was about supporting high-quality and innovative research into breast cancer in New Zealand to improve quality of life and, ultimately, ensure survival from the disease. The HRC BC partnership has now funded a total of 21 projects to the value of $3,869,390.

2019 Breast Cancer Research in New Zealand partnership recipients:

Dr Gavin Harris, Canterbury District Health Board Using deep learning and digital pathology to intrinsically subtype breast cancer
24 months: $249,650

Research summary:   

Digital pathology is the reviewing of tissue slides on a computer monitor rather than using microscopes. It is gaining momentum with anatomical pathology laboratories transitioning to this technology. In addition to increasing efficiency of pathologists to generate reports for clinicians treating breast cancer, digital pathology allows the application of computer algorithms that objectively quantify and standardise results. Studies have found that algorithms applied to digitally scanned slides can provide molecular data from breast cancer cases. This would otherwise require molecular testing, which not all patients can access due to cost. We wish to develop advanced machine-learning algorithms to automatically identify digital signatures of genomic changes in invasive breast cancers from tissue slides. This will be used to improve equity of access to testing and improve prediction of prognosis and response to treatment. The ultimate goal is to allow more tailored patient therapies to give the best clinical outcome possible.


Dr Annette Lasham, The University of Auckland
Validation of a liquid biopsy to predict recurrence in NZ breast cancer patients
18 months, $244,095

Research summary:   

Early detection of breast cancer recurrence is critical for saving lives. We have identified two molecules, found in the blood of 250 patients at the time of surgery for breast cancer, that were very good at predicting which of these women would have a relapse before five years. We now want to validate these molecules on a new group of 400 NZ breast cancer patients, to see whether these molecules could be used as a blood test to predict disease recurrence. We also want to see if we can combine information from this blood test with existing clinical and pathological tests, to give doctors and patients greater knowledge about their prognosis. We will use advanced statistics to determine what information to include in order to generate the best prognostic test. This information could guide treatment decisions or suggest a requirement for closer surveillance of patients following surgery for breast cancer.

Barbara Lipert, The University of Auckland
Validation of predictive biomarkers for T-DM1 activity in HER2+ breast cancer
24 months, $195,571

Research summary:   

The antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1; Kadcyla) extends the survival of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer patients. However, both acquired and intrinsic resistance limit its effectiveness and there are no reliable biomarkers for predicting the tumour response to T-DM1. Applying advanced genetic methods, we have identified a panel of 612 genes that we hypothesise to be involved in T-DM1 resistance. Here, we propose to validate the pre-selected candidate genes to select those with the highest potential to modify T-DM1 activity. We will apply cellular and animal models to check how inactivation of these genes influences the response to T-DM1. Finally, we will correlate their activity with the oncologic response of breast cancer patients to T-DM1 therapy. In the long term, our work could be applied to identify breast cancer patients most likely to benefit from T-DM1 or those patients who are most likely to develop resistance.

Dr Logan Walker, University of Otago
Analysis of full-length transcripts for variant classification in breast cancer
24 months, $186,149

(Funded fully by Breast Cancer Cure)

Research summary:   

The future of successful genetic screening in New Zealand requires increased sensitivity and specificity of tests, and informed clinical management for high-risk breast cancer families.  

To date a lot of attention has gone on BRCA1/2 and that focus remains, however for this study the focus is on other high-risk breast cancer genes which currently do not reliably have the specificity that we need as we often identify variants of unknown significance. Using the latest technology (nanopore sequencing – a world first) which involves splicing the full length of the isoforms for BARD1, CDH1, CHEK2, PTEN, PALB2 and TP3, we expect to more reliably identify the necessary mutations. This will ensure that clinicians, the individuals affected and their families will be more likely to be able to take actions to reduce the likelihood of developing disease. How – through better surveillance techniques, treatments, surgery all in the hope of reducing the risk of advanced breast cancer. Two of the research team are members of an international expert panel (https://clinicalgenome.org/affiliation/50039/) who have been charged with developing rules for doctors so they can interpret genetic results. It is because of these linkages that their findings will be applied within clinical diagnostic settings around the world.

Identification of cancer-causing mutations in breast cancer susceptibility genes has well-defined and actionable implications for disease prevention. Of added value, outcomes from this research will also be integrated into international guidelines and as a result people globally will benefit. In the future this work can be extended to moderate and high-risk genes and also to better understand potential differences across Maori and Pasifika for whom there are currently no reliable norms.

Phillipa Green, CEO of Breast Cancer Cure comments, “Funding these distinctly different, but equally compelling research submissions is our reason for being. All the fundraising events, the networking, the conferences and the meetings comes down to this – putting money into the scientists and laboratories that are working hard to find ways to beat the devastating effects of breast cancer. We are delighted to announce these successful recipients co-funded with BCFNZ and HRC, but equally thrilled to announce an additional recipient who we will fund entirely through our own organisation. We believe this research will put us on a path to making breast cancer a survivable disease.”

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