Wednesday August 2, 2017
Advancing a potential treatment for breast cancer
Energising students and keeping obesity at bay Thousands of greater Wellington primary school students are getting their blood pumping, and learning about healthy eating, to avoid obesity. Around 3000 children from 16 schools participate in Project Energize Wellington, which combines sport and physical activity with nutrition lessons. It is funded by Capital and Coast District Health Board (DHB) and delivered by the Heart Foundation. “Obesity has increased significantly over recent years, and is
particularly worrying in children,” Rachel Haggerty, executive director strategy, innovation and performance, said. “Obesity is linked to a range of health problems and affects a child’s quality of life, and obese children are more likely will likely to become obese as adults – increasing risk of further problems and reduced life expectancy.” According to DHB numbers from 2015/16 over 10 per cent of New Zealand children aged two to 14 were obese, and 21 per cent
were overweight. The DHB also supports Ora Toa PHO to combat childhood obesity in Porirua through physical activity and nutrition programmes for obese Maori and Pacific children and their families. “Getting children active, and helping them make healthy eating choices, will reduce childhood obesity. “We’re excited to suppor t programmes that make a real difference in the lives of our communities,” Rachel said.
Olga’s project will bring together experts in medicinal chemistry and cancer biology from Victoria and Auckland universities, the University of Liverpool, and Uppsala University in Sweden. PHOTO: Supplied
Advanced metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body. While there is currently no cure for the disease, researchers from Victoria University of Wellington are investing time and effort into finding one. Olga Zubkova from Victoria’s Ferrier Research Institute was recently awarded $100,000 from the Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand (BCFNZ) for her research. “Every bit helps to fight this horrible disease,” Olga said. The scientist is developing a potential new treatment for advanced breast cancer targeting a specific enzyme called heparanase. “Heparanase is a key influencer in the malignant behaviour of cancers like breast cancer,” Olga explained. “Heparanase weakens the elements that hold cells together, and enables cancer cells to escape by breaking down tissue barriers. “This means the prima-
ry tumour grows faster and spreads to remote parts of the body, becoming very difficult to treat.” Olga plans to suppress heparanase using sugar-based compounds that she has developed over the past 15 years. “These bio-inspired compounds have already been shown to significantly hinder the spread of blood and bone cancer in an animal model,” she said. “Our approach is to use the compounds to change the tumour’s environment in a breast cancer setting and restrict tumour growth, and ultimately the spread of cancer to other tissues, such as brain and liver.” Fellow scientists at the Ferrier Research Institute are also developing a potential breast cancer vaccine, which works by activating tumour-targeting immune cells. “This research was supported by a five-year, $500,000 partnership with BCFNZ earlier this year.
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Independent Herald 02-08-17