Knowledge is power: beating breast cancer

Knowledge is power: beating breast cancer

Illuminate newsletter index page, September 2019
September 2019

(L-R) Sisters Ellie Rogers and Lisa Bardas
Ellie Rogers (left, with sister Lisa Bardas) was just 38
years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ellie was 38 years old when she found out that she had cancer.

​It was a clear blue-sky day; just perfect for a magical skiing adventure for Ellie and her two young children.

Ellie was sitting on the chairlift when her phone rang. She recognised the doctor’s number immediately and her heart sank.

The small lump that she had detected in her breast a few days prior was, as she had feared, malignant.

In the genes

As it turned out, Ellie carries the BRCA1 gene mutation. Women who carry a faulty BRCA1 gene have a 70 per cent chance of developing breast cancer and a 40 per cent chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Parents who carry a BRCA gene mutation have a 50/50 chance of passing that gene down to their children.

Following Ellie’s diagnosis, all of her adult family members, bar one, discovered that they too carried the BRCA1 gene mutation. Approximately one in 500 people carry a faulty BRCA gene. Ellie and her sister, Lisa, lost their mum to cancer more than a decade earlier. They have both also sat by close friends who battled the disease.

Together, Ellie and Lisa are determined to raise funds to accelerate Professor Jane Visvader and Professor Geoff Lindeman’s BRCA1 research at the Institute.

Saturday 10 August 2019 marked the date of their inaugural Winter Ball at Mount Buller which raised more than a million dollars for vital breast cancer research.

(L-R) Professor Geoff Lindeman and Professor Jane Visvader
(L-R) Professor Geoff Lindeman and Professor Jane
Visvader are world renowned breast cancer researchers.

Pioneers in breast cancer research

Professor Visvader and Professor Lindeman are world-renowned breast cancer researchers. A series of landmark findings by their cancer research group have shed new light on our understanding of how breast cancers arise and how they could be prevented and treated.

In 2015, they discovered that a drug currently used to treat bone cancers may prevent women with faulty BRCA1 genes from developing breast cancer. A pilot study conducted in Melbourne showed promising early findings and has successfully led to an international prevention study that is currently underway.

Their influential research is bringing us a step closer to improving outcomes for people with faulty BRCA genes and helping to prevent cancers before they begin. Further research is vital to understand the complexities of cellular growth and interactions that cause breast and ovarian cancers to arise.

More information

To learn more about supporting important research into breast and ovarian cancer, contact 03 9345 2403 or

Super Content: 
Two researchers smiling at the camera

A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Animation still

This animation from WEHI.TV visualises research published in Nature Medicine in 2009 by Professor Jane Visvader and Professor Geoff Lindeman.

Video 1:06 

Four researchers smiling at camera

A cutting-edge technique called cellular barcoding has been used to tag, track and pinpoint cells responsible for the spread of breast cancer from the main tumour into the blood and other organs.