March 7, 2013  Print

Australian research could lead to safe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alternatives that will ease the suffering of menopausal women without putting them at risk of breast cancer, Cancer Council NSW announced today.

HRT is widely known to increase the risk of breast cancer. The researchers are investigating why progesterone in HRT can cause cancer.

This groundbreaking research is one of 21 research projects, announced today, to be awarded a prestigious grant from Cancer Council NSW, the largest non-government cancer research funder in NSW. Cancer Council NSW has awarded $12m to these cancer research teams.

The additional 20 cancer research projects include research to improve cancer outcomes in Indigenous patients, identifying why people inherit cancer in their DNA, and research to stop the proteins and enzymes in childhood cancers that help spread the cancer further.

“We are working with the best cancer researchers in Australia, many of whom are globally renowned for their work,” said Dr Libby Topp, Research Strategy Manager, Cancer Council NSW.

“The results of these projects could lead to identifying cancerous gene faults early and more effective treatment for cancers including pancreatic cancer and melanoma.”

The research projects will run for either three or five years and will involve research teams from across Australia, as well as global collaborations.

“Research by Professor Christine Clarke and Dr Dinny Graham looking into why progesterone in HRT can cause breast cancer aims to identify better HRT therapies for women,” said Dr Topp.

The hormone progesterone is important for normal reproductive function. However, when analogues are given as part of hormone replacement therapy it may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Dr Dinny Graham, Westmead Millennium Institute, said: “Women can be severely affected by menopausal symptoms and may worry about the possible impact of HRT and their breast cancer risk.

“Our team is delighted to be awarded this grant from Cancer Council NSW that will help us investigate why HRT increases breast cancer risk.”

For more information on Cancer Council NSW research visit or join the discussion #cancergrants