Wendy Ingman

Associate Professor Wendy Ingman

Research Fellow

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

A/Prof Wendy Ingman graduated from a PhD at the University of Adelaide in 2002 and conducted postdoctoral training as an NHMRC CJ Martin Fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY, returning to Adelaide in 2005. Wendy made the transition to independent researcher in 2009 with an NHMRC New Investigator Project grant. In 2011 she was appointed an NBCF Early Career Fellow and THRF A/Prof of Breast Cancer Research, and established a laboratory at TQEH which is her current appointment. The Unit employs a variety of techniques including 3 dimensional culture of human breast tissue and genetically modified mouse models to investigate breast biology and how disease states of the breast occur.

The Breast Biology and Cancer Unit is located at the Basil Hetzel Institute within The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and at the Medical School on Frome Rd at the main University campus.

The breast is a unique organ, because it goes through the majority of its development a long time after birth. The major phases of breast development occur during puberty, where the cellular structures develop to maturity, and pregnancy where the cells become altered, so as to enable milk production during lactation. Milk is an essential part of the life cycle of all mammals. In fact, provision of milk to newborns from the breast (also known as the mammary gland) is one of the defining features of mammals. Therefore, it is critically important to the survival of mammalian species that mammary gland function is protected, so that milk can be produced to nurture the next generation. However, the extensive changes that occur in the breast pose some unique immunological challenges. The immune system is programmed to maintain the status quo by mounting attacks against invading bacteria and viruses, and preventing rogue cells from developing into tumours. So when a tissue undergoes such extensive changes as the breast does, the immune system must develop particular strategies to allow this to happen. Our research investigates the immunology of the breast and how immune system cells affect cancer risk and development of mastitis.


Research projects for Honours, Masters and PhD students are available in our laboratory.

Breast Cancer Risk and Prevention

Breast cancer places an incredible burden on Australian women. Every year, around 18,000 Australian women are diagnosed with breast cancer alone - a disease that devastates women's lives and is often fatal.

If we are to prevent and treat breast cancer, we must better understand how the disease develops. Breast density (also known as mammographic density) is the percentage of white and bright regions on a mammogram. Breast density is not related to how breasts look or feel and can only be assessed by mammogram. Forty three percent of women have "Heterogenously Dense" or "Extremely Dense" breasts, which together are termed "high breast density". High breast density is both an independent risk factor for breast cancer and masks cancers on a mammogram. Combined, these two distinct phenomena lead to increased incidence, delayed diagnosis, more aggressive tumours, and a 90% increased risk of breast cancer-associated death in women with high breast density.

There is exciting potential for breast density to become a widespread health assessment tool, used to identify the women most at risk of breast cancer in order to intervene early and reduce that risk.

Our research is the first to demonstrate a causal role for immune system signalling in breast density and the associated cancer risk. Using a unique human biobank of paired high and low density breast tissue samples, together with transgenic mouse models, we demonstrated that pro-inflammatory protein C-C Motif Chemokine Ligand 2 (CCL2) is a biological driver of both high breast density and increased risk of cancer. This study opens the door for new approaches to reduce breast cancer risk through use of anti-inflammatory drugs in women with dense breasts.

Improving Breast Cancer Treatment

Breaking immune tolerance in triple negative breast cancer: Failure of the body's immune system to attack a threat such as a mutated cell is known as immune tolerance, and is one of the key hurdles to overcome in both treating breast cancer and preventing its recurrence. Our laboratory has identified a new biological pathway active in breast cancer involving a protein called C1q, which can be targeted to break this tolerance. The aim of this project is to capitalize on this discovery to develop a new approach to breaking tolerance in triple negative cancer, a very aggressive subtype of breast cancer which is notoriously difficult to treat.

Exploring the impact of menstrual cycling on personalised medicine for premenopausal breast cancer patients: Gene expression profiling of breast cancer is a technology increasingly being adopted in the clinic as a personalised medicine approach to tailor treatment to individual patients. However, an underappreciated factor in premenopausal breast cancer diagnosis is that oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate dramatically during the menstrual cycle, and these hormones are likely to affect gene expression. This research aims to determine whether fluctuation in oestrogen and progesterone associated with different stages of the menstrual cycle significantly affects gene expression profiles in breast cancers from premenopausal women. We will examine gene expression profiles in paired biopsy and surgical breast cancer tissue samples taken from women undergoing treatment at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and investigate how menstrual cycle stage in the two samples affects breast cancer subtype.

Mastitis and Lactation Insufficiency

Lactation mastitis is an inflammatory breast disease affecting 17-27% of Australian breastfeeding women that causes pain, fever and low milk supply. The challenges posed by this disease lead many women to use supplementary formula, or cease breastfeeding altogether leaving their infants at increased risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases as babies, and non-communicable diseases including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, allergies, asthma, mental illness and chronic lung, liver and renal diseases as both children and adults. Our recent research has suggested that macrophages play a role in development of this disease.

Our current research pursues new knowledge in how disease state develop in the breast. We explore revolutionary new concepts of how immune cells function in the breast, and how these cells affect breast disease development.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2011 Associate Professor University of Adelaide
    2009 - 2010 Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2008 - 2008 Postdoctoral Research Officer University of Adelaide
    2003 - 2008 CJ Martin Fellow University of Adelaide and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    2002 - 2003 Research Officer Adelaide University
    1998 - 1998 Research Assistant Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2016 Award Award for Excellence in Reproductive Biology Research Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2016 Award Women’s Research Excellence Awards University of Adelaide Australia
    2012 Award SA Leading Light Award Finalist Australian Society for Medical Research
    2011 Recognition Most Outstanding Research Paper published in 2011 University of Adelaide Australia
    2010 Recognition Excellence in Research Supervision University of Adelaide Australia
    2008 Award Best Presentation by Postdoctoral Fellow Network of Genes and Environment in Development Australia
    2007 Award Most Outstanding Early Career Researcher University of Adelaide Australia
    2007 Recognition Most Outstanding Research Paper published in 2007 University of Adelaide Australia
    2005 Award Tall Poppy Science Award Australian Institute of Political Science
    2003 Fellowship NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship NHMRC Australia
    2003 Scholarship World Academy of Arts and Science’s Emily Hartshorne Mudd Scholarship & C. Lalor Burdick Scholarship
    2002 Award Young Investigator Award, finalist Women’s and Children’s Hospital
    2001 Award Ross Wishart Award Australian Society for Medical Research Australia
    2001 Award Find of National Science Week Australia
    2001 Award Junior Scientist Award, 1st place Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
    2001 Research Award Trainee Research Award, 2nd place Society for the Study of Reproduction Australia
    1998 Award Australian Postgraduate Award
    1997 Award Junior Scientist Award, finalist Australian Society for Reproductive Biology
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    1998 - 2002 University of Adelaide Australia PhD
    1993 - 1997 University of Adelaide Australia BSc
  • Research Interests

Date Project Title Investigators Funding Body Amount
2016 - 2017 Exploring the impact of menstrual cycling on personalised medicine for premenopausal breast cancer patients W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation 100 000
2015 - 2016 Inflammation in mammographic density and breast cancer risk A Evdokiou, W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation 110 000
2011 - 2014 Immune system determinants of breast cancer susceptibility W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation 600 000
2013 - 2014 A novel concept for parity-induced breast cancer protection W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation 199 997
2011 - 2012 Control of breast density and cancer risk by stromal-epithelial interactions W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation 199 772
2011 - 2013 TGFB1 is a pivotal regulator of endometriotic lesion development L Hull, W Ingman Australian National Health and Medical Research Council 423 786
2011 Understanding the inflammatory basis of mastitis W Ingman Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation 70 000
2009 - 2011 Macrophages in developmental programming of reproductive health W Ingman Australian National Health and Medical Research Council 511 500
2011 Extracellular matrix – macrophage crosstalk in the mammary gland W Ingman, Ricciardelli C, Russell D, Sharkey DJ Robinson Institute 12 000
2003 - 2008 Macrophages in mammary gland development and disease W Ingman Australian National Health and Medical Research Council 368 000
2007 Establishing a mouse model to study the role of TGFbeta-regulated macrophages in reproductive biology W Ingman Research Centre for Reproductive Health 10 000
2006 - 2007 Physiological role of TGFbeta 1 in erectile dysfunction W Ingman, Musgrave I, Robertson SA University of Adelaide 25 000
2005 - 2006 Macrophage regulating cytokines in mammary gland development and disease W Ingman, Robertson SA University of Adelaide 17 000

2009 – present

  • Guest lecturer in Comparative Reproductive Biology of Mammals III, Bachelor of Health Science, University of Adelaide, Australia. Lectures focus on mammary gland development, lactation, evolution of mammary gland and comparative biology of lactation in different mammals.
  • Guest lecturer in Animal Reproduction and Development III, Bachelor of Animal Science, University of Adelaide, Australia. Lectures focus on mammary gland development, lactation, comparative biology of lactation in different mammals and mammary gland diseases in livestock.



  • General examiner, Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide Honours course



  • Supervisor of 4th year research project, Bachelor of Medicine, University of Adelaide



  • Supervisor for Structural Cell Biology III, Bachelor of Health Science, University of Adelaide


1998 – 2000

  • Tutor and Examiner (part-time employment)

Introductory Medicine course for first and second year medical students, University of Adelaide

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2017 Principal Supervisor The Role of Adipocytes in Breast Density Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Amita Gautam Ghadge
    2016 Principal Supervisor The role of Gg in modulation of macrophage function and breast cancer susceptibility Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Joseph Wrin
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2016 - 2020 Principal Supervisor The effect of menstrual cycling on genomic predictive biomarkers in premenopausal breast cancer Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Sarah Margaret Bernhardt
    2015 - 2018 Principal Supervisor Hormone and transcription factor regulation of cytokines in the mammary gland Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Vahid Atashgaran
    2015 - 2020 Principal Supervisor Immune Modulation of Mammographic Density and Breast Cancer Risk Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Maddison Rose McKinnon Archer
    2012 - 2015 Principal Supervisor Cytokine-macrophage Regulatory Network in Mammary Gland Development and Tumourigenesis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Xuan Sun
    2011 - 2014 Co-Supervisor The Effect of Macrophages on Fibroblast Activity and Lesion Development in Mouse Models of Endometriosis Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Mohammad Zahied Johan
    2011 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Effect of C1q Null Mutation on Mammary Gland Development and Breast Cancer Susceptibility Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Siti Mariam Noor Din
    2009 - 2012 Co-Supervisor The Role of Macrophages in Early Pregnancy Success Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Alison Care
  • Board Memberships

    Date Role Board name Institution name Country
    2008 - 2011 Council Society for Reproductive Biology
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2012 - 2015 Chair Basil Hetzel Institute Management Committee The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Australia
  • Editorial Boards

    Date Role Editorial Board Name Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Associate Editor Frontiers in Endocrinology
  • Position: Research Fellow
  • Phone: 82226141
  • Email: wendy.ingman@adelaide.edu.au
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: QEH - Basil Hetzel Institute
  • Org Unit: Surgical Specialties

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