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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
Melbourne, Australia

Current Research

  • Seeking new treatments for patients with advanced HER2-positive and triple negative breast cancers.
  • Patient tumors are analyzed to understand the relationship between tumor infiltrating immune cells and the tumor to gain insight on improving therapies.
  • These studies are addressing major challenges to successful therapy and could advance immunotherapies to help more patients.

New immune-based therapies that enhance the anti-tumor immune response have been successful in treating several types of cancer including some breast cancers. Most breast cancer patients, however, have not benefitted from an immunotherapy approach. Dr. Loi is leading several efforts aimed at improving response to immunotherapy by studying how breast cancers can or cannot generate a potent immune response.

Full Research Summary

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 breast tumors with a higher quantity of immune cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) have a better prognosis than those without TILs. 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 be used to identify those patients who will benefit from immunotherapies.

In her ongoing BCRF research, Dr. Loi and her team characterized TILs in tumors from patients harboring BRCA mutations and analyzed immune infiltrate breast cancer patient samples, collected fresh from the operating room. Results from these samples will be critical for the development of effective immunotherapies for breast cancer patients. 

In the coming year, Dr. Loi will expand on previous findings identifying a special class of T-cells that she believes will be critical for understanding how anti-breast cancer immunity is generated.

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.

Biography

Sherene Loi MD, PhD, is a clinician scientist and medical oncologist specializing in the treatment of breast cancer. She also leads a lab that focuses on understanding the genomic and immune interface in breast cancer with the aim to investigate and develop novel therapeutics in the preclinical space. Clinically her current research focus is the evaluation of novel and rational combinations of targeted and immune therapies for breast cancer patients. She leads the Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Unit at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre (VCCC) in Melbourne, Australia.

She completed her medical oncology training in Melbourne, Australia. She worked in Brussels, Belgium at the Breast International Group clinical trials headquarters for around 8 years before returning to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Melbourne, now part of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, in 2013. She is an active member of the Breast Cancer Trials Australian and New Zealand Cooperative Group and co-heads the Translational Working Group of the International Breast Cancer Study Group (IBCSG) Bern, Switzerland  She also holds an Endowed Chair from the National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia. She is a Professor Medicine at the University of Melbourne and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

 

BCRF Investigator Since

2015

Donor Recognition

The Blizzard Entertainment Award