Wendy Ingman

Associate Professor Wendy Ingman

Ext-Funded Research Fellow (D)

Adelaide Medical School

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

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


Wendy is a breast health researcher leading multi-disciplinary studies in breast cancer, breastfeeding and breast development. Current research projects include identifying the impact of menstrual cycling on predictive breast cancer tests, development of a new technology for early breast cancer detection, defining the underlying biology of mammographic density as a breast cancer risk factor, and establishing a new paradigm for lactation mastitis.

Wendy is passionate about the importance of community education and advocates for women to be well-informed about how to take control of their own breast health. She also provides advice and education to a number of national organisations including BreastScreen Australia, the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia. Wendy founded and currently leads a national alliance of breast cancer researchers called InforMD (visit www.informd.org.au for more information), who are highly active in public health policy and community awareness.

Ahead of her lecture at the GOLD Lactation Online Conference in 2021, Wendy spoke to Fiona Lang-Sharpe about what inspires her in her work, and why breast research is so important.

Improving breast health throughout the life course

The breast is a unique organ, because it goes through most of its development a long time after birth. For example, puberty is a really important phase in breast development, as is pregnancy. This development is key in enabling the breast to perform its critical function in producing milk to nurture a new baby, but it also affects the risk of breast cancer for a woman's entire life. We know that the breast is the most susceptible tissue in a woman's body for developing cancer, so it's very important to understand how it grows and functions. Our research focus is on studying how the breast functions and how disease states can develop in the breast, such as breast cancer and lactation mastitis, and how this information can be used to improve women's breast health for the life course.

Breast Biology & Cancer Unit - 'prevention for the future'

Wendy leads the Breast Biology & Cancer Unit, based at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The research focus is on understanding the underlying biology of breast function and risk of disease. The Unit works closely with a broad range of clinicians, communication experts and community groups so that new discoveries will translate into improved prevention, detection and treatment decision-making, with the ultimate goal to improve breast health outcomes. Research projects are available for Honours, Masters and PhD students.

BBCU

Breast cancer prevention research

Breast cancer places an incredible burden on Australian women. Every year, around 20,000 Australian women are diagnosed with breast cancer alone - a disease that devastates people's lives and is often fatal. If we are to prevent breast cancer, we must better understand how the disease develops. This research studies the biological mechanisms of two different risk factors - breast density and menstrual cycling.

Why breast density matters in prevention and detection of breast cancer

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. 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. Learn more about breast density here.

Despite the difficulties breast density cause in the detection of breast cancer, 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, opening the door for new approaches to reduce breast cancer risk through use of anti-inflammatory drugs in women with dense breasts. Find out more about this discovery in Wendy's ABC Health Report podcast with Dr Norman Swan.

Immune cells open a window of breast cancer risk each menstrual cycle

Menstrual cycling increases a woman's risk of breast cancer. For each year younger a girl starts menstruating (i.e. having a period each month), there is a 5% increased risk of breast cancer over her lifetime. Our research has focused on immune cells known as macrophages in the breast, and how the role of these cells changes because of fluctuations in hormones during different times of the month. We have discovered that while the immune cells have a role to play in the normal function of the breast, at certain stages in the menstrual cycle they may help to make the breast more susceptible to cancer. Learn more about this discovery here.

Improving breast cancer treatment decision-making

Gene expression profiling of breast cancer is a technology increasingly being adopted in the clinic as a precision medicine approach to tailor treatment to individual patients. However, an underappreciated factor in breast cancer diagnosis in young women is that oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate dramatically during the menstrual cycle, and these hormones are likely to affect gene expression. We have shown that the menstrual cycle can affect precision medicine which could in turn affect treatment decision-making. This research has led to the TRIAGE project (Treatment Response Independent of AGE); a collaboration with industry partners including SA Pathology that aims to ensure patients of all ages can access the best advice about how to treat their individual breast cancer.

Lactation mastitis and breastfeeding research

Lactation mastitis is an inflammatory breast disease affecting 1 of 5 Australian breastfeeding women. It 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 research has suggested that macrophages play a role in development of this disease. The ROBIN study (Risk Of Breast INflammation) is now exploring revolutionary new concepts of how immune cells function in the breast, and how these cells affect breast disease development. Learn more about lactation mastitis in Wendy's podcast for the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2023 - ongoing Externally-funded Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2011 - 2022 THRF Associate Professor of Breast Cancer Research University of Adelaide
    2011 - 2015 NBCF Early Career Fellow University of Adelaide
    2009 - 2010 Externally-funded Research Fellow University of Adelaide
    2003 - 2008 CJ Martin Fellow University of Adelaide and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    1998 - 1998 Research Assistant Queen Elizabeth Hospital
  • Awards and Achievements

    Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount
    2023 Award Commendation for the Enhancement and Innovation of Student Learning University of Adelaide Australia -
    2020 Award SRB-RFD Publication of the Year Award Society for Reproductive Biology Australia -
    2019 Achievement Vice Chancellor Research Excellence - shortlist University of Adelaide Australia -
    2016 Award Women’s Research Excellence Award University of Adelaide Australia -
    2016 Award Award for Excellence in Reproductive Biology Research Society for Reproductive Biology 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 Recognition Most Outstanding Research Paper published in 2007 University of Adelaide Australia -
    2007 Award Most Outstanding Early Career Researcher 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
  • Postgraduate Training

    Date Title Institution Country
    2003 - 2005 NHMRC CJ Martin Fellowship Albert Einstein College of Medicine United States
    2003 - 2003 Frontiers in Reproduction Marine Biological Laboratory United States
  • Research Interests

Date Project Title Investigators Funding Body Amount
2022-2024 A paradigm shift in lactational mastitis W Ingman, L Amir National Health and Medical Research Council $950,00
2019-2022 Towards zero deaths from breast cancer W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation $750,000
2019-2023 OPTimising Mothers’ Own Milk supply in the neonatal unit – enhancing breast milk supply with Domperidone in mothers of preterm infants (OPTIMOM-D) L Grzeskowiak, L Amir, L Smithers, Jacobs, W Ingman, R Grivell National Health and Medical Research Council $1,000,000
2016 - 2017

Exploring the impact of menstrual cycling on personalised medicine for premenopausal breast cancer patients

W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation $125,000
2016-2019 A/Prof Breast Cancer Research Fellowship W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation $600,000
2015 - 2016 Inflammation in mammographic density and breast cancer risk A Evdokiou, W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation $110,000
2013 - 2014 A novel concept for parity-induced breast cancer protection W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation $200,000
2011 - 2012 Control of breast density and cancer risk by stromal-epithelial interactions W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation $200,000
2011-2016 A/Prof Breast Cancer Research Fellowship W Ingman The Hospital Research Foundation $1,000,000
2011 - 2013 TGFB1 is a pivotal regulator of endometriotic lesion development L Hull, W Ingman National Health and Medical Research Council $420,000
2011 Understanding the inflammatory basis of mastitis W Ingman Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation $70,000
2011-2015 Immune system determinants of breast cancer susceptibility W Ingman National Breast Cancer Foundation $600,000
2009 - 2011 Macrophages in developmental programming of reproductive health W Ingman National Health and Medical Research Council $510,000
2003 - 2008 Macrophages in mammary gland development and disease W Ingman National Health and Medical Research Council $370,000

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for health professionals

2022  Hospital Authority webinar, Hong Kong “The biology of mammary gland development and its implication in lactation management”

2022  Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand South Australian branch webinar “Mastitis: Are we just like cows?”

2022  New Zealand Lactation Consultants Association “The biology of the mammary gland in lactation”

2021  Australian Breast Feeding Association Health Professional seminar series in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth; 2 presentations at each city “Mastitis: are we just like cows?” and “Breast cancer risk and the modern woman”.

2021  GOLD international lactation online webinar “The biology of the mammary gland in lactation”

2020  Warrnambool Victoria international “Turning the Tide” breastfeeding conference “The biology of lactation: challenging old paradigms to improve breastfeeding outcomes”

2019  Australian Breastfeeding Association Tasmania branch workshop; 2 presentations “Biology of lactation and why it reduces breast cancer risk” and “Inflammatory mediators in mastitis and lactation insufficiency”

2019    Australian Breastfeeding Association South Australia/Northern Territory branch workshop “The biology of lactation: challenging old paradigms to improve breastfeeding outcomes”

2018  Lactation Consultants of Australia and New Zealand “Understanding the biology of lactation: challenging old paradigms to improve breastfeeding outcomes”

2017    Australian College of Nursing and McGrath Foundation “The significance of breast density in screening, detection and incidence of breast cancer” https://youtu.be/6BJeLEjs2q4  

Undergraduate degree teaching

2021-2023     Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, University of Adelaide; Research and Critical Appraisal course, supervision of research project

2018-2021    Bachelor of Health Science; Reproductive Health Matters, University of Adelaide; Lecture and Workshop on lactation

2020-2022   Bachelor of Health Science; Precision Medicine II, University of Adelaide; Lecture on precision medicine in breast cancer

2014             Bachelor of Health Science; Physiology III, University of Adelaide; supervision of research project

2009-2017    Bachelor of Health Science, Comparative Reproductive Biology of Mammals III, University of Adelaide; lecture in mammary gland development, lactation, evolution of mammary gland and comparative biology of lactation in different mammals

2010-2012    Bachelor of Animal Science, Animal Reproduction and Development III, University of Adelaide; lecture on mammary gland development, lactation, comparative biology of lactation in different mammals and mammary gland diseases in livestock.

2002             Supervisor of 4th year research project, Bachelor of Medicine, University of Adelaide

2001             Supervisor for Structural Cell Biology III, Bachelor of Health Science, University of Adelaide

1998-2000    Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, Introductory Medicine I and II, University of Adelaide; Tutor and Examiner

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

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Principal Supervisor Androgen receptor regulation of lipid metabolism in estrogen receptor positive breast cancer Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Reza Maleki
    2023 Principal Supervisor Defining Male Breast Cancer: From the biological, clinical and patient perspective Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Steve Kinsey-Trotman
    2022 Principal Supervisor The role of TLR4 in mammographic density and breast cancer risk Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Hanieh Heydarlou
    2022 Co-Supervisor The Biology of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Sima Kianpour Rad
    2021 Principal Supervisor Mammographic density: optimising communication and clinical care Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Avisak Bhattacharjee
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2017 - 2021 Principal Supervisor The Developmental Origins of Mammographic Density and Breast Cancer Risk Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Amita Gautam Ghadge
    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
    2016 - 2022 Principal Supervisor DEVELOPMENT AND EVALUATION OF MOUSE MONOCLONAL ANTIBODIES AGAINST HUMAN C1Q Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Joseph Wrin
    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
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2023 - ongoing Member Early/Mid-Career Researcher Working Group Executive Committee Research Australia Australia
    2022 - ongoing Chair FHMS Career Development Committee University of Adelaide Australia
    2022 - ongoing Member FHMS Research Committee University of Adelaide Australia
    2021 - 2022 Chair Adelaide Medical School EMCR Committee University of Adelaide Australia
    2021 - 2021 Member Future Making Fellowship selection panel University of Adelaide Australia
    2020 - ongoing Member Adelaide Medical School Research Committee University of Adelaide Australia
    2018 - 2020 Chair Breast Tumour Stream South Australian Comprehensive Cancer Consortium Australia
    2018 - ongoing Member Australian Breast Density Consumer Advisory Council West Australian Health Translation Network Australia
    2018 - 2021 Member Breast Density Working Group Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Australia
    2012 - 2015 Chair Basil Hetzel Institute Management Committee The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Australia
    2008 - 2011 Member Executive Council Society for Reproductive Biology Australia
  • Community Engagement

    Date Title Engagement Type Institution Country
    2023 - ongoing Women in the West - event Public Community Engagement Charles Sturt Council Australia
    2022 - 2022 Dense breasts linked to family history of cancer - interview Public Community Engagement Medical Republic Australia
    2022 - 2022 All about breast cancer - event Public Community Engagement Pint of Science Australia
    2021 - 2021 Mastitis: are we just like cows? - interview Public Community Engagement Australian Breastfeeding Association Australia
    2021 - 2021 The Biology of the Mammary Gland in Lactation - interview Public Community Engagement GOLD Online Learning Canada
    2020 - ongoing Can you see the polar bear? animation Public Community Engagement InforMD Australia
    2019 - 2019 What is breast density and does it matter if your breasts are dense? - event Public Community Engagement Raising the Bar Adelaide Australia
    2018 - 2018 Detection and clinical significance of dense breast tissue - interview Scientific Community Engagement eCancer -
    2017 - 2017 Dense breast dilemma - interview Public Community Engagement ABC Health Report Australia
    2017 - 2017 Game changing women - interview Public Community Engagement Intimo Australia
    2016 - 2016 Breast density matters in the detection of breast cancer - informational video Public Community Engagement University of Adelaide Australia
  • Presentation

    Date Topic Presented at Institution Country
    2023 - 2023 Assessing Women's Knowledge about Breast Density 91st Annual Scientific Congress of Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Australia
  • Position: Ext-Funded Research Fellow (D)
  • Phone: 82226141
  • Email: wendy.ingman@adelaide.edu.au
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: QEH - Basil Hetzel Institute
  • Org Unit: Surgical Specialities

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