Dr Patries Herst completed her MSc in microbiology at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 1982, followed by an MPhil in microbiology from Waikato University in 1984. After a period of absence from academia, she completed a PhD at the Malaghan Institute in 2006 under Professor Mike Berridge in cancer cell energy metabolism. Her thesis research characterised a novel electron transport chain in the plasma membrane of proliferating cells. Plasma membrane electron transport, in addition to mitochondrial electron transport and lactate dehydrogenase activity, recycles NADH to NAD+ and forms an excellent target in highly glycolytic cancer cells.
Dr Herst has held a number of appointments at the Department of Radiation Therapy, University of Otago, Wellington: Lecturer (2001-2008), Senior Lecturer (2008-2015) and most recently Associate Professor (2015- present). She is part of the Cancer Cell Biology team led by Professor Mike Berridge.
The ability of some cancer cells to prevail against radiation therapy and chemotherapy is fascinating; I have spent a lot of time in the last decade to find ways to overcome treatment resistance, using high dose vitamin C and high oxygen-perfluorocarbon nanoparticles.
My current interests centre once again on energy metabolism in cancer cells and their absolute requirement for mitochondrial oxygen consumption (but not mitochondrial ATP production) to form tumours. Cells that cannot respire must obtain respiring mitochondria from elsewhere before they can form tumours. Using a variety of gene knockout cancer cell lines with different levels of respiration and mitochondrial ATP production, we intend to elucidate their importance in metastasis in the next three years.
In addition to preclinical research I also run clinical trials that investigate better ways to manage radiation-induced acute side effects in various hospitals in NZ and China (2008-present).