News

18 April 2011

Breast cancer survivor Dr Eliza Whiteside has a whole new perspective on her cancer research at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) since she was diagnosed in 2002.

As a mother of two, and ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), she is the perfect candidate to take part in this year's Women in Super Mother's Day Classic in Brisbane on May 8 - an annual fun run to raise money and awareness for the NBCF.

Dr Whiteside's story is inspirational: while working as a cancer researcher and raising her 2-year-old son, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 28.

Since her recovery, she has commenced new research looking at identifying women who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and working on ways to prevent the disease taking hold.

Breast cancer affects one in nine women and one in 28 will die of the disease.

"There is amazing research being undertaken at the moment, particularly in Australia, investigating improved treatments based on new drug targets and this is very important," she said.

"Having experienced over 12 months of surgeries and chemotherapy treatment myself, losing my hair and my breasts and feeling terribly ill for much of my treatment, I developed a very personal view of the absolute necessity of cancer research. I decided that if I ever returned to the laboratory, I would view cancer research through a different lens.

"I am so thrilled that QUT has provided me with the opportunity to resume my research career. I now have the opportunity to investigate strategies to prevent breast cancer.

"My research is aimed at identifying those individuals who are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer and investigate factors like lifestyle, diet, exercise, and mental health - to see how these can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

"It is more of a whole body approach to cancer biology."

Dr Whiteside and her research team will be looking at the responsiveness of individuals to changes in the levels of certain biological factors, to see how breast cancer risk is impacted when these changes occur.

"My vision is that individuals will be able to undergo a non-invasive test to identify their breast cancer risk and use this information to reduce their likelihood of developing breast cancer," said Dr Whiteside.

"Anything which can reduce the risk is so valuable."

Dr Whiteside said she was not considered "high risk" according to the identified risk factors when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, so she wanted to identify more accurate measures of breast cancer risk.

"It was devastating to be diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at such a young age but at the end of the day I feel that everything happens for a reason and what happened to me has led me to work in this field and hopefully one day will help prevent others from developing breast cancer," she said.

Since her recovery, Dr Whiteside has had her second child, a daughter. Both of her children, along with her husband, parents, brother, friends, work colleagues and research team will be joining her for the Mother's Day Classic Day Fun Run on Mother's Day, May 8.

"It will be a terrific event and it is for a great cause, raising much needed funds for the NBCF as well as raising awareness of breast cancer and the need for further research to prevent this disease," she said.

The Mother's Day Classic gives participants the option to walk or run a scenic 4.5km or 8km track.

Registrations and donations for the event are now open at www.mothersdayclassic.com.au.

Media contact: Sharon Thompson, QUT media officer - 3138 2999 or sharon.thompson@qut.edu.au
**Hi-res pic available for media

Dr Eliza Whiteside