Dr Anne Rios

Dr Anne Rios hopes her life’s passion for imaging and filming will help to answer key questions about how breast cancer starts and spreads. Dr Rios, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) in Melbourne, is using state-of-the art imaging equipment to visualise the activity of cells in both normal and cancerous environments.

Raised in Marseille, France, Dr Rios came to Australia in 2006, bringing her rare skills to WEHI. Dr Rios is the only researcher in Australia – and one of the few in the world – to film in 3D the activity of cells in breast tissue. This technique, which shows how cells move and interact in real time, provides insights into how breast cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and spread throughout the body.

Dr Rios will soon start to film the early stages of tumour development, a process known as tumourigenesis. Using 3D imaging, Dr Rios is able to find out more about how breast tissue develops. “I’m hoping it could help with diagnosing breast cancer because if you can take a piece of breast tissue and look at it in 3D, you can understand more about the problems in the organisation of the tissue, and how the tumour is changing its environment to enable it to grow and spread,” she says.

By the end of her NBCF Postdoctoral Training Fellowship in three years’ time, Dr Rios hopes to have a better understanding of the physiological behaviour of cells in the breast – to understand why cells are dying or multiplying, and how they talk to each other.

“I also want to try to describe the early steps of tumour and to understand how cells behave and interact with each other during this critical step” she says. “Hopefully if I have enough time, I could visualise the effect of drugs on different types of breast cancer.

“It’s the beginning for me, but I have a lot of hope that this imaging technique can help to answer some important questions in breast cancer,” Dr Rios says. Dr Rios’ work is co-funded with Cure Cancer Australia Foundation.