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Assoc Prof Robin Anderson

Wednesday 5 December, 2012

Associate Professor Robin Anderson As a youngster, Associate Professor Robin Anderson's career aim was to be a plant scientist. 

"I loved working with plants and I was determined that I was going to be a botanist or ecologist, I didn't mind, but it was in that area," she recalls.

Shortly after moving to the United States to pursue a career working with plants, A/Professor Anderson's career had a sudden change in direction.

"I had a life-changing experience with an event of cancer in the family. At the time I didn't really know what cancer was and I was determined to apply my scientific skills to learn more about the disease," she said.

This led to a change of career that ultimately saw A/Professor Anderson return to Australia, after working in prestigious laboratories in the United States and United Kingdom. Upon her return she received a grant from Cancer Council Victoria, and commenced at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where she is now Group Leader of the Metastasis Research Laboratory.

A/Professor Anderson's research focuses on developing a therapy to prevent secondary tumours in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Her work is vitally important for the 3,500 Victorian women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

"The current treatments for breast cancer are very effective, with five-year survival at an all-time high of 89%," A/Professor Anderson explains. "But sometimes a few tumour cells escape and lodge in distant organs such as the lungs or bone and then, years later, flare up as new tumour growths.

We recognise that we may not get rid of these tumour cells, but if we can just prevent them from growing, patients will live a normal life and not know they're there."

A/Professor Anderson says it's an exciting time to be involved in cancer research.

"Cancer is a complicated disease and every person is different, but our knowledge and ability to treat cancer is growing exponentially."

A/Professor Anderson is enormously grateful for the support she received from Cancer Council Victoria.

"It's a huge team effort to get all this funding. It comes from people who usually have had some sort of involvement of cancer one way or another and it's just fantastic that
people are willing to give back like that."

And what of her plants? A/Professor Anderson laughs: "I love my garden, I grow my own vegetables. I still love my plants."