Using a State of the Art Tumour Bank to Investigate Drug Resistant Breast Cancer

Start Year: 2019
Finish Year: 2021
Chief Investigator: Dr Zhi Ling Teo
Institution: The University of Melbourne / Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Metastasis is an incurable spread of cancer and is the main cause of cancer death. It is evident that metastatic cancers differ from the primary tumors from which they originate. Yet, much is unknown about how breast cancer spreads.

One of the main challenges in understanding cancer metastasis is a lack of access to tissue from people with advanced disease. To address this gap in knowledge, a unique tissue bank has been established at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. The resource has samples from the entire course of disease within each patient (primary disease, metastasis at time of relapse and at time of death). This is the most complete breast cancer tissue bank in Australia.

In this NBCF-funded study, Dr Zhi Ling Teo will use the tissue bank to trace the full lifecycle of aggressive HER2+ breast cancer. In particular, her study will focus on changes in the immune system over the course of the disease and how this affects outcomes.  The study will also identify changes in the biology of the tumours over time and determine how these variations contribute to metastasis.

Overall, the study will provide new information on ways to anticipate, inhibit or suppress the evolution of drug resistance and metastasis in HER2+ breast cancer.