The United Kingdom’s national science academy, the Royal Society, has recognised the achievements of Melbourne breast cancer researcher Professor Jane Visvader, bestowing its fellowship on her.
one of three Australians to be elected as Fellows of
the UK Royal Society in 2020
Professor Visvader is one of only three Australians – and among 62 people worldwide – to be elected to the Royal Society in 2020. She was honoured for her significant contributions to breast cancer research and developmental biology, which have revealed how the breast is formed from stem cells, and the relationship between normal breast cells and cancer.
Professor Visvader’s research discoveries have underpinned the development of better ways to treat and prevent breast cancer, some of which are now in clinical trials.
At a glance
- Breast cancer researcher Professor Jane Visvader has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, the United Kingdom’s national science academy.
- The award reflects Professor Visvader’s lifetime contributions to understanding how normal and cancerous breast cells develop, and discovering better ways to prevent and treat breast cancer.
Significant research contributions
Professor Visvader has jointly led the Institute’s breast cancer research program since its establishment in 1998. Her team has investigated the molecular workings of cells within the breast, understanding how they develop and what goes wrong when cancers arise. This work has revealed new approaches to treating and preventing breast cancer.
Highlights of Professor Visvader’s research have included:
- isolating the long-sought mammary stem cell, and revealing how this gives rise to breast tissue – including papers published in Nature (2006) and Nature Cell Biology (2017)
- identification of daughter cells of mammary stem cells and key molecular regulators of these cell types – including publications in Nature Cell Biology (2007); Cell Stem Cell (2008) and Developmental Cell (2018)
- revealing which breast cells can – if faulty – go on to contribute to breast cancer, and explaining why hormone exposure can elevate breast cancer risk – published in Nature (2010)
- identifying the daughter cells that go awry in women who carry the BRCA1 risk gene, leading to a new prevention strategy for these women, an approach now being tested in clinical trials – published in Nature Medicine (2009) and Nature Medicine (2016)
- developing new approaches for pre-clinical testing of human breast cancer samples, leading to the discovery of potential new therapeutic options – published in Cancer Cell (2013)
Professor Visvader said she was honoured to join the Royal Society. “The society has promoted excellence in science for more than 350 years, and I am very humbled to be elected to a fellowship that includes many scientific luminaries,” she said.
“I’d like to emphasise that my achievements have been shared with many people – in particular my long-standing scientific partner Professor Geoff Lindeman, as well as all the talented researchers who have been part of our team. I would also like to thank Professor Suzanne Cory, Professor Jerry Adams and Professor Doug Hilton for their mentorship and leadership throughout my career.”
“I’d also like to acknowledge the significant philanthropic support that has enabled me to focus on my research. Funding from the Australian and Victorian governments has also been instrumental.”
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute director Professor Doug Hilton AO said Professor Visvader was one of Australia’s leading cancer researchers and thoroughly deserving of recognition by the Royal Society.
“Jane’s research has been particularly notable for how it has spanned from fundamental research discoveries through to clinical research. I am in awe of the passion and vision she has, to be able to take discoveries in the basic biology of the breast and to translate this into research that is benefitting people with breast cancer,” he said.