For her ground-breaking work in breast cancer, Professor Sherene Loi has received the Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year in the 2021 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Professor Loi is recognised for translating scientific findings into innovative treatments that can improve the survival of breast cancer patients around the world.

Her research has led to the development and implementation of an immune biomarker test for breast cancer as well as a better understanding of the interaction between the immune system and breast cancer growth.

The immune biomarker is now part of routine pathology reporting for breast cancer in many countries, and is included in the World Health Organisation Classification of Tumours: Breast Tumours (also known as WHO Blue Book on Breast Tumours).

Professor Loi has also made a significant contribution to the first worldwide approval of immunotherapy for patients with the most aggressive type of breast cancer.

She helped prove that immunotherapy – a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer – can prolong survival in patients with this advanced disease.

Professor Loi is Head of the Translational Breast Cancer Laboratory at Peter Mac. She also has a busy breast cancer clinical practice and leads the Breast Oncology Trials unit across the Parkville Precinct (encompassing Peter Mac, the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Royal Womens Hospital).

“It’s incredible to see how findings move from the laboratory to the clinic,” Professor Loi says.

“For me, it’s about responsibility and purpose, ensuring the work that I’m doing can help ensure the next generation doesn’t suffer from breast cancer as much as our current generation.”

Since 2018, Professor Loi has ranked in the top one per cent of highly cited researchers globally by the Web of Science, publishing more than 250 peer-reviewed research articles in the field of clinical medicine.

In nominating Professor Loi for the Prize, Peter Mac’s Executive Director of Cancer Research, Professor Ricky Johnstone, said her “world-leading research spans the breadth from basic discovery science to translational medicine and clinical trials”.

“Professor Loi has conducted exceptional research into the molecular, biological and immunological drivers of breast cancer that has directly led to the development of revolutionary approaches to cancer treatment, resulting in a profound impact on the lives of cancer patients around the world,” Professor Johnstone said.

The Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science are Australia’s most prestigious awards for outstanding achievements in scientific research and research-based innovation.

The Prize is named after Professor Frank Fenner, the Australian microbiologist and virologist who oversaw the eradication of smallpox. It also provides $50,000.

See all previous recipients on the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science honour roll.