The application of gene expression profiling to develop new prognostic tools for breast cancer management

Start Year: 2006
Finish Year: 2007
Chief Investigator: Dr Sherene Loi
Grant Type: Fellowships
Institution: Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre

Doctoral Research Scholarship

The traditional approach to clinical research in breast cancer has been the comparison of treatments through randomised clinical trials, with the extrapolation of an average benefit in an overall patient population to each individual. This often means that many patients are over-treated, while only a few derive considerable benefit. What is needed is a way to ensure that each patient receives a treatment tailor-made to manage the particularities of her disease.

One very promising technology is microarray analysis. It enables scientists to look at the specific ‘molecular signature’ (or ‘fingerprint’) of each tumour, such that it should become possible to predict in a more accurate way whether the cancer will return and whether a patient is likely to benefit from a specific treatment. So far, this type of technology has revealed that within breast cancers, are many groups, distinguished by different sets of genes. This may explain their diverse clinical outcomes and response to different cancer therapies.

Dr Loi uses this technology to further identify and define the relevant genes and biological pathways associated with the different molecular subgroups of breast cancer. This will ultimately help doctors prescribe the best treatment for an individual breast cancer patient.