Against Breast Cancer are proud to announce Dr Lina Hacker as our newest Junior Research Fellow.
Launched in 2018 and designed to provide research support for some of the country’s leading scientists and clinicians performing breast cancer research at the University of Oxford, the Fellowships are each awarded on a 3-year basis.
Pictured with our first Senior Research Fellow Dr Simon Lord, Lina is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Oncology. The Against Breast Cancer Junior Research Fellowship will be supporting her work on developing new imaging tools and strategies to detect and stratify (categorise) hypoxia levels in breast cancer.
When a tumour is growing, it can develop low oxygen levels, which is called hypoxia. Understanding hypoxia is important because people with highly hypoxic tumours are more likely to respond poorly to treatment. Particularly in breast cancer, tumours that are more hypoxic have been shown to be more aggressive and resistant to treatments, leading to worse outcomes for the patients. Many things about hypoxia in tumours are still unknown. A fact that is overlooked by many is that tumour hypoxia is a dynamic phenomenon, meaning that hypoxia levels are not always constant but can vary with time. This is important because studies have shown that tumours with varying hypoxia are even more aggressive and resistant to treatment than those where hypoxia levels are constant. Understanding this in more detail would help us develop better treatment strategies and support us in saving people’s lives.
This research is focused on finding new signs (biomarkers) related to varying hypoxia in breast cancer that can help doctors better understand the aggressiveness and resistance of tumours and choose the best treatments for the patients.
To achieve this, new imaging strategies are developed to help us “see” hypoxia in more detail in breast cancer and better describe its magnitude and variability. For this, Dr. Hacker is working closely with the Department of Chemistry in Oxford, which is developing new imaging compounds that will support us in “measuring” hypoxia in tumours. Using these compounds, information on the variation of hypoxia in different breast cancer types and stages is collected. Then, studies will be carried out to investigate the impact of these different hypoxia levels on a genetic level in cells. For these studies, specialized boxes are used that help us expose cells to different levels and times of low oxygen. The difference in gene expression will be investigated under different oxygen variations (genes can be compared to tiny instructions in our bodies). This will help us identify genes related to varying hypoxia, which may tell us how dangerous a tumour is and help us to treat it better. Thereby, we may be able to find dangerous cancer types earlier, choose better treatments, and even develop new medicines to fight breast cancer.