How the immune system affects risk of breast cancer

Start Year: 2011
Finish Year: 2016
Chief Investigator: Associate Professor Wendy Ingman
Grant Type: Early Career Fellowship
Institution: University of Adelaide

Early Career Fellowship

Breast cancer is the result of accumulation of DNA mutations over the course of a woman’s life that ultimately leads to deregulated cell division and tumour formation. The body has a number of systems in place to help repair DNA mutations when they occur, thus protecting the body from cancer. Cells of the immune system are part of the body’s defence against cancer and can recognise and eliminate cells containing DNA mutations. However, immune cells, such as macrophages, are also known to be critical for the normal function of the mammary gland. The requirement for macrophages for the everyday functioning of this tissue is unique to the breast. This can affect how the immune system responds to DNA mutations.

Associate Professor Ingman will explore the basic biology of immune cells in the mammary gland and how these immune cells protect the gland from tumour formation. This fundamental work is expected to underpin novel interventions that utilise the body’s own immune system to protect the breast from DNA-mutated cells, to reduce the incidence of breast cancer in our community.