Dr Heidi Hilton

Understanding hormone activity in breast cancer

Dr Heidi Hilton is a Research Fellow at Sydney’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research.

The research

Heidi researches breast cancer. She aims to discover why the ovarian hormones progesterone and oestrogen act differently in normal breast tissue and in breast cancer, and what drives this change. 

She hopes that her work will uncover how abnormal hormone activity may increase the risk of getting breast cancer, and inform how to prevent it.

“The link between hormones and breast cancer has been clearly shown by evidence that women who begin their menstrual cycle earlier or menopause later are at increased risk of getting the disease,” says Heidi.

“The use of some exogenous hormones, in hormone replacement therapy for example, can also increase the risk,” she says.

First-hand experience

Soon after completing her PhD at Sydney’s Garvan Institute in 2009, Heidi herself was diagnosed with early breast cancer. First-hand experience of the disease only strengthened her commitment to her research.

“Since then I’ve been even more motivated to continue working in research so I can make my own contributions to further advancing the field,” she says.

The recipient of two earlier Cure Cancer Australia grants, Heidi’s profile continues to rise internationally as a breast cancer researcher.

Unparalleled opportunities

Heidi says that Cure Cancer Australia’s funding of early-career researchers enables unparalleled opportunities to build careers in cancer research.

“Young researchers like myself are competing against senior professors, and so it’s very difficult to attract our own funding from government bodies like the National Health and Medical Research Council”.

Outside of work, Heidi and her husband Ryan love spending time with their young daughter, and enjoying good food and wine. “Getting old is a privilege denied to many,” she says, “so enjoy every moment.”


Heidi is funded by Cure Cancer Australia through the Cancer Australia Priority-driven Cancer Support Scheme. Her grant is supported by Fight on the Beaches