Finding a way to detect miniscule fragments of tumour DNA in the blood has earned A/Prof Jeanne Tie international accolades – and given hope to countless cancer patients.

HELPING revolutionise the treatment of bowel cancer for future generations is top priority for A/Prof Jeanne Tie.

But the leading oncologist remains acutely aware of the people who help make breakthroughs possible – the current generation of cancer patients.

A/Prof Tie, who has earned global attention for her work on the so-called “liquid biopsy”, says almost 1000 patients have contributed to her research by donating blood during their treatment.

“I would like to say a big thank you to those patients, for without their altruism, none of these researches would be possible” says A/Prof Tie.

“Thank you for your time and your blood samples. We’re hoping this work will change how we manage bowel cancer, ultimately you could be helping many people around the world.”

A/Prof Tie and fellow Western Health oncologist A/Prof Peter Gibbs have won international accolades for their work on circulating tumour DNA analysis, which is the detection of miniscule fragments of tumour DNA in the blood of patients. While initial trials focused on whether liquid biopsy can be used to predict cancer recurrence, current and future trials are looking at whether this blood test is a more effective way than the routine practice in deciding the best post-surgery chemotherapy strategy for patients with stage II and other stages of bowel cancer.

A/Prof Tie and A/Prof Gibbs, also from the Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, developed the test in collaboration with the John Hopkins University in the US. Additionally, over 20 Australian hospitals have contributed patients to the liquid biopsy research.

The success of this test – published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s prestigious Clinical Cancer Advances 2017 report, which highlights the biggest breakthroughs and trends of the year in global cancer research – has many benefits.

By predicting the risk of relapse of cancer patients in real-time – well before current methods of detection – the “liquid biopsy” will spare patients needless chemotherapy and better target those at risk of recurrence.

A/Prof Tie says while most patients diagnosed with stage III bowel cancer are given chemotherapy, only about 10-15 per cent will benefit. The remainder are either resistant to the chemotherapy or they did not need it in the first place.

“Patients undergo treatment blindly and we cross our fingers hoping that they would benefit, because until now, there’s been no way of knowing which patients needed chemo or not,” she says.

Depending on the results of the current studies, it is hoped the test will be used in clinical practice within the next 5 to 10 years in early stage bowel cancer, and may be sooner in advanced stage bowel cancer.

A/Prof Tie and A/Prof Gibbs were also presented with the American Association for the Advancement of Cancer Research’s annual award for team science in 2017. They were part of an international team led by Dr Luis Diaz from Johns Hopkins.

The Greatest Need Project is an online story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research, at Western Health.

As a staff member, A/Prof Jeanne Tie is sharing her story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.

By making a donation on A/Prof Tie’s behalf – and sharing her story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.

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