At Cabrini we are involved in state of the art breast cancer research, with the aim of improving treatment outcomes in patients. Dr Tali Lang is part of a multi-disciplinary team of researchers who are investigating biological changes seen in different types of breast cancer and trying to identify the most effective treatment based on the clinical features of their tumour.
“What we are doing is essentially looking to personalise the treatment of breast cancer patients” says Dr Lang. “Not all treatments work for all types of cancer, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer, so we are determining the best treatment plan based on the cancer sub-type”.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting Australian women. It is estimated that over 20,000 women will be newly diagnosed in 2020. Current treatments include a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, however treatment responses and side-effects vary from patient to patient. “Our research aims to identify genetic changes which have occurred within breast cancer cells, and how these changes influence treatment responses. This will help us to determine what treatment is most effective for killing the cancer cells in a range of breast cancers” says Dr Lang.
In collaboration with Professor Abud at Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, we have successfully grown breast cancer organoids, which are miniaturised versions of the original tumour removed from the patient and grown in a laboratory. Breast cancer organoids are used to examine molecular changes within breast cancer cells and can also be used to test the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs. This will pinpoint the best treatment options for specific sub-types of breast cancer for improved treatment responses.
“By using breast cancer organoids we can distinguish between effective and ineffective treatments and be able to predict in patients, which treatment will be most effective for their type of cancer” says Dr Lang. “This will ultimately spare patients from receiving treatments for which they are unlikely to see benefit, reduce possible treatment side-effects, and tailor individual treatment plans for best clinical outcomes”
Cabrini treats around 650 breast cancer patients each year, providing comprehensive care including diagnostics, surgery, immunotherapy, infusion treatment, physiotherapy, counselling and psychological support. To support Cabrini Breast Cancer Care, including Dr Lang’s research, please donate at cabrinifoundation.com.au/donate/cabrini-sites/293/ or call 03 9508 1380.
Image: Microscopic image of a patient-derived breast cancer organoid, and inset, Dr Tali Lang.