Titles and Affiliations

Professor, Cancer Therapeutics
Head, Translational Breast Cancer Genomics and Therapeutics Lab
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
University of Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia

Research area

Understanding what causes aggressive estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in young women. 


Many young women diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly those diagnosed under the age of 40, have poor outcomes. These women have increased rates of both local and distant recurrence compared to older women. Although women younger than 40 have higher rates of triple-negative breast cancer, it is paradoxically those with estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer who seem to have the poorest outcomes. Dr. Loi is working to understand biological reasons underlying this phenomenon.

Progress Thus Far

Dr. Loi is examining the association of ER-positive breast cancer with higher rates of recurrence in young women. She and her team are taking advantage of the extensive samples collected as part of the SOFT clinical trial, which demonstrated the benefit of the addition of ovarian function suppression to chemotherapy and endocrine therapy after surgery in women under 40. The tumor samples collected from SOFT participants provide a valuable resource to help answer ongoing questions about the biology of breast cancer in premenopausal women. Dr. Loi is analyzing these tumor samples to understand why ER-positive breast cancer is more aggressive in young women. To date, they have performed DNA sequencing of 1,500 tissue samples. Now, they are working on gene expression analysis of the samples to interrogate various biological pathways.

What’s next

In the upcoming year, Dr. Loi will continue analyzing the SOFT trial samples to gain a comprehensive understanding of the biology of ER-positive breast cancer in young women. She and her team hope to have insights into the biological pathways that may underlie the poor outcomes in women under 40 and understand why some young patients are long-term survivors. Ultimately, Dr. Loi hopes to potentially tailor treatments more effectively to younger patients, as well as identify potential new therapeutic targets, and develop new clinical trials for young women with aggressive types of breast cancer. 


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


Donor Recognition

The Cynthia Lufkin Award

Areas of Focus