Dr Gabi Dachs is researching the potential role vitamin C could have in cancer progression

Gabi Elisabeth Thumbnail 001
Gabi (left) and a member of her team

Meet Dr Gabi Dachs. Born in Namibia, educated in South Africa, and trained at the MRC at Harwell, UK. Gabi is currently a Research Associate Professor at the University of Otago and is interested in the effects of vitamin C on bowel cancer.

After losing several close friends and family members to cancer, Gabi wanted to do something meaningful and know that her research may make a real difference. This is the reason she chose to pursue a career in cancer research.

Currently, Gabi’s research is trying to, “discover (all of) the factors or proteins that change inside a cancer cell in response to vitamin C”. Many cancer patients have low vitamin C status, and it’s known that vitamin C is fundamental to health.

However, not enough is known about it’s relationship with cancer so this study will fully investigate whether vitamin C plays a role in cancer progression, and if so, how?

Gabi has recruited a team of experts to help on the research. With her dream-team gathered, they will start by culturing human bowel cancer cells in the laboratory.  They will create samples with and with-out vitamin C, then compare the proteins in each of the samples.

They will end up with a list of proteins that have appeared/disappeared or increased/decreased as a result of the added vitamin C. This knowledge will allow them to start understanding the potential of vitamin C in cancer treatment.

“Working in a field that genuinely excites me and being able to work and discuss new data with students/colleagues is what inspires me. It’s vitally important to do robust and honest science, something that stands up to scrutiny. The most important part of my job is for my research to be of genuine use to patients,” Gabi says.


Gabi Shield Thumbnail 001
Gabi is pictured here, dressed as Captain America, with her Relay for Life team

In the future, Gabi hopes to expand her research to include more ‘direct contact’ with patients and to carry out small clinical trials. She sees her future firmly in cancer research at the University of Otago as she gets a lot of satisfaction out of helping young students succeed.

It was the Cancer Society that provided Gabi with her first big grant after coming to New Zealand when investigating gene therapy in cancer. The Cancer Society further supported her research via travel and project funding, supporting patients requiring accommodation during clinical trials, and importantly through the Cancer Society Tissue Bank.

Outside of research, she’s taken part in the Relay for Life every year for the past eight years as a member of the Mackenzie Marvels, carrying the baton around the field throughout the night..

As a researcher, her work and her salary are (almost) entirely reliant on research grants, so this grant has truly played a vital role in making this project a reality.

Gabi doesn’t have a lot of spare time! With four awesome kids, great husband and lifestyle block keeping her busy. She balances this with an (almost) full-time job as a researcher. Where there is time though, she enjoys walks along the beach and rides on her Standard-bred.

Gabi’s expert team:

Dr Elisabeth Phillips: expert in cancer cell biology

Dr Torsten Kleffmann: expert in mass spectrometry (a powerful analysis tool to identify individual proteins in cells)

Prof Margreet Vissers: expert in free radical biochemistry and vitamin C, to help her in this study.


Read about some of the other researchers we fund here.

Author: Cecilia Wang