ARE 2008

Husband and Wife Team Recognised for Outstanding Breast Cancer Research

Drs Jane Visvader and Geoff Lindeman, researchers at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) and the Royal Melbourne Hospital, have been presented with the GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence for their outstanding contribution to breast cancer research.

Regarded as one of the most prestigious within the Australian research community, the award recognises the outstanding contribution by the pair in advancing international understanding of breast cancer.

The Award recognises their body of work, where several research outcomes have taken on international significance:

  • Their team’s discovery of the breast stem cell laid an important foundation for understanding how normal breast tissue develops and is likely to provide clues about how breast cancer develops and how rogue cells evade current therapies. It is likely to form the basis of international research in breast cancer for years to come.
  • The discovery of a luminal precursor breast cell, which forms part of the hierarchy of cells in breast tissue. This cell may be a key target for mutation in the majority of breast cancers.
  • The demonstration that LMO4 and GATA-3 are key regulators in breast tissue: overproduction of LMO4 leads to breast cancer; while GATA-3 is a critical factor for driving maturation of breast ductal cells and is an important suppressor of breast tumours.

“The ultimate goal of our research is to identify the cells and molecular pathways that are responsible for sustaining tumours. If we can achieve this, then we should be able to develop more effective prognostic markers, and importantly, novel targeted therapies,” said Dr Jane Visvader.

Dr Geoff Lindeman said, “We are deeply honoured to receive this award and recognition from GSK, cognisant of how much excellent medical research is being carried out in Australia. Research is necessarily a team effort, and this award reflects on the talented people with whom we have worked over the last ten years. Like many researchers, we are passionate about our efforts ultimately making a difference for patients and their families and improving cancer outcomes

“Drs Visvader and Lindeman are deserving winners of the award. Their outstanding research in the field of breast cancer and stem cell biology offers great hope for better understanding and better treatment for breast cancer. The GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence is awarded annually to recognise Australia’s world class scientists for their outstanding achievements in research discovery that has the potential to lead to significant benefits in human health,” said Dr Michael Elliott, Medical Director, GlaxoSmithKline Australia.

This is the seventh time that WEHI researchers have been recognised by the GlaxoSmithKline Award and the fourteenth time in the Award’s twenty-eight year history that Victorian-based researchers have received it.

“We have been very fortunate to have a terrific team of people working on these projects over the past several years,” said Dr Visvader, “and our research productivity has also benefited from long-term funding support provided by the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium and other funding agencies.”

“For the kind of cancer research that we do, it is impossible to overstate the importance for us of sustained and untied funding support. The promotion of seamless links between the lab and clinic is also helpful,” said Dr Lindeman, who is also a breast cancer specialist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He has also made significant contributions to translational research, which includes the establishment of the Victorian Cancer Biobank and the ACRF Centre for Therapeutic Target Discovery.

Recipients of the GlaxoSmithKline Award for Research Excellence receive an honorarium of $60,000 to further their work. The award is regarded as one of the most prestigious within the Australian research community. A requirement of the award is that the majority of the research is undertaken in Australia.

Information on Breast Cancer
• Breast cancer is the 5th leading cause of overall cancer mortality (502,000 deaths / year).
• Breast cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer (after lung cancer) worldwide with 1.15 million diagnoses in 2002.
• Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer of women (23% of all cancers).
• Based on the most recent data, relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are: 88% at 5 years after diagnosis, 80% after 10 years, 71% after 15 years and 63% after 20 years.


World Health Organisation. Cancer Fact Sheet No. 297. February 2006. Accessed on 23rd November 2006
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Parkin DM et al CA Cancer J Clin 2005; 55: 74-108
American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2005-2006. Atlanta: American Cancer Society, Inc