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Akshata Anchan

Dr Akshata Anchan (photo self-supplied).

2023: Dr Akshata Anchan at Waipapa Taumata Rau the University of Auckland, has been awarded a Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for research titled ‘Melanoma suspension particles and brain-metastatic extracellular vesicles in disruption of brain endothelial barrier integrity’

Brain cancers are the most aggressive type of cancer, with devastating prognoses. Though brain cancers can originate within the brain, most are created by cancer cells travelling to the brain from other body parts. This process is called cancer brain metastasis, forming 'secondary' brain tumours.

Brain metastasis likely occurs primarily through the blood vessels. Transitioning across blood vessels to the brain requires cancer cells to overcome the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a biological ‘checkpoint’ defending the brain against toxins within blood.

Melanoma cell on brain endothelium

Melanoma cell on brain endothelium (unpublished work provided by Dr Anchan).

In this Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr Anchan aims to understand how brain metastasis occurs. She will investigate how cancer cells infiltrate the BBB using patient-derived metastatic cancer cells, and how by-products of cancer cells alter metastasis rates.

This research programme may suggest interventions that can prevent brain cancers from becoming established in the first place, protecting patients in Aotearoa and the wider world.