Cancer researchers Dr Andrea ‘t
Mannetje (left) and Dr Mona Jeffreys.
Cancer researchers join Centre
The appointment of two more Postdoctoral Research
Fellows within the Centre for Public Health Research is part of a major
new cancer research programme, says Centre Director, Professor Neil Pearce.
Dutch-born Dr Andrea ‘t Mannetje will work on studies of occupational
causes of bladder cancer, leukaemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in
New Zealand. The studies are being conducted with Occupational Safety
and Health (OSH). She will also develop studies of specific industries,
such as exposure to chemicals within the timber treatment industry. These
will expand the work of CPHR postdoctoral research fellow Dave McLean,
who has been investigating the causes of high cancer risks within the
meat industry, and is about to start a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the
World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on
Cancer (IARC). While working at the Institut Municipal d’Investigacio
Medica (IMIM) in Barcelona, Dr ‘t Mannetje undertook a major study
of links between occupational exposures and bladder cancer within European
men and women. More recently she’s been with IARC in Lyon, France.
“ When I was in Lyon I came out here for three weeks to help Dave
McLean set up his programme of occupational cancer cohort studies. During
that period I discovered this strong interest within the Centre in developing
occupational epidemiology programmes. So Wellington became the ideal location
for my postdoctoral studies.”
Irish-born Dr Mona Jeffreys did her PhD in cancer epidemiology at the
University of Bristol. Her particular interest is breast cancer. New Zealand’s
breast cancer rates are higher than other developed countries.
“ I’m interested in life-long exposures, particularly in adolescence,
and the long-term effects of this on breast cancer risk in later life,”
“ There has been very little work done in New Zealand on why people
get breast cancer, so I’ll be setting up a study which will look
at the major risk factors for breast cancer in New Zealand at different
Dr Jeffreys has a particular interest in links between being overweight
and breast cancer rates.
“ There’s a strong proven relationship between being overweight
post-menopausally and breast cancer, so I’ve been extending that,
looking at the subsequent breast cancer rates if you’re overweight
in your 20s.”
Professor Pearce says the two appointments represent a major step forward
for cancer research within the University.
“ One in four people get cancer at some time in their lives and
one in five die from it. We also know the differences between Mäori
and non-Mäori life expectancy rates are partly due to cancer.”
Professor Pearce says that the causes of cancer – particularly breast
cancer – in New Zealand are under-researched.
“ And while cancer is increasingly becoming a priority for the Government
in terms of public health interventions, not much attention has been given
to occupational cancer until very recently. We hear a lot about the 50-100
deaths a year from workplace injury, but very little about the almost
500 deaths a year from occupational cancer.
“ That is why we have these two initiatives under way, and why it’s
good that we can attract two researchers of this calibre from the other
side of the world. We see this as not only an opportunity to do research
that will be of interest both internationally and in New Zealand; we also
intend to take this opportunity to train Mäori and Pacific researchers
who will work on these studies and then develop their own cancer research