A Faculty team has added to its success in establishing a multi-faceted international research program with China on the anticancer properties of green tea by winning a prestigious national award.
Dr Min Zhang, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Population Health (SPH), last month received the Federal Government’s 2009 Endeavour Research Fellowship to conduct a pilot trial in China, gaining her team a much-needed funding boost.
With travel and living expenses covered by the Fellowship, Dr Min Zhang will spend at least half of next year in China, carrying out a pilot randomised controlled trial on a group of 200 healthy Chinese women in an attempt to consolidate the link between breast cancer control and green tea consumption.
Twice a day for six months, half the participants will be given two green tea capsules that have the same amount of green tea extract found in nine standard cups, while the other half of the women will be given placebos.
Each woman will undergo a mammography to assess any difference in mammographic density and gauge green tea’s ability to modify circulating levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are linked to breast cancer.
“The most difficult challenge for me has been data collection during my trips to China because interviewing patients in the community is very difficult and talking to them on the phone is very expensive,” said Dr Zhang, who is also Director of the Lu Cha (green tea) Sino-Australian Research Collaboration established three years ago.
When presenting the fellowship, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said it was designed to support research collaboration in areas of common interest between Australia and the region – namely Asia and the Middle East.
Professor of Public Health D’Arcy Holman has led the UWA green tea intervention research and said the Fellowship was a welcome reward for the hard slog put in by Dr Zhang and her colleagues, including Research Fellows Dr Max Bulsara and Dr Frank
Sanfilippo from the SPH, Professor Michael Millward, of the School of Medicine and Pharmacology, and Professor Christobel Saunders, of the School of Surgery.
Following the completion of the pilot RCT in China, the team hopes to put the anti-cancer properties of green tea to the test on home soil in a trial involving West Australian women with high-risk stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3a breast cancer.
In another coup for the Green Tea research team, the NHMRC will fund a million-dollar multi-centre green tea research program in Zhejiang and Laoning provinces that is due to begin next year. A five-year partnership with researchers at UWA’s sister school Zhejiang University has broadened research avenues and the latest trial involves 5,000 participants with colon cancer, leukaemia and breast cancer.
-By Amanda Saunders