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Sherene Loi, MD, PhD
Head, Translational Breast Cancer Genomics and Therapeutics Lab
Consultant Medical Oncologist, Breast Unit
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
Associate Professor, University of Melbourne
Seeking new treatments for patietns with advanced HER2-positive and triple negative breast cancers.
Patient tumors are analyzed to understand the relationship between tumor infiltrating immune cells and the genetics of the tumor to gain insight on improving therapies.
These studies are addressing major challenges to succesful therapy and could advance immunotherapies to help more patients.
Dr. Loi's research focuses on developing new therapeutic approaches for breast cancer patients, with a particular interest in the role that the immune environment plays in HER2-positive and triple negative breast cancers.
Her team has previously shown that a higher quantity of immune cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) present in a breast tumor can predict better survival in some breast cancer patients. These findings suggest that the body's natural immune system can be a critical component in the course of the disease and response to anti-cancer therapies, and that the level of immune cells may provide a clinical biomarker that can identify those patients who will benefit from immunotherapies.
In the coming year, Dr. Loi and her team will characterize the immune cells in these infiltrates using cutting-edge single-cell sequencing technology and will analyze the genetic makeup of tumors from breast cancer patients who do and do not show these immune infiltrates in their cancers.
By understanding how breast cancers can or cannot generate a potent immune response, Dr. Loi believes that scientists will be able to develop better therapies to successfully activate the immune system to help control a patient’s breast cancer.
Results from this study will have implications for future clinical trials of immunotherapy in breast cancer. Defining mechanisms of activation may result in new therapeutic approaches to improve response to immunotherapies.
Sherene Loi is a medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of breast cancer. She also leads a lab that focuses on genomics and novel therapeutics in breast cancer, particularly to understand the genomic and immune interface in breast cancer patients. Her research interests include the development of novel therapeutics in the preclinical and clinical space. In preclinical models, Dr. Loi and colleagues have shown that combination immunotherapy with anti-HER2 therapy is synergistic and effective and as a result, a phase II trial testing the efficacy of immunotherapy with trastuzumab is currently ongoing.
Dr. Loi completed her medical oncology training in Melbourne, Australia. She worked in Brussels, Belgium, at the Breast International Group clinical trials headquarters for nearly eight years under the supervision of Drs. Martine Piccart and Christos Sotiriou before returning to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia where her breast cancer practice and lab are located. She is an active member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Australian and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group (ANZBCTG) and co-heads the Translational Working Group of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG). She is also the current Cancer Council Victoria, Australia Dr. John Colebatch Clinical Research Fellowship holder.