For Dr Venessa Chin, research means the discovery of the new and unknown and that one day there will be a cure for lung cancer.
What inspired you to undertake this research project?
Immunotherapy has provided an exciting new therapy for patients with advanced lung cancer. However, the majority of people who try these therapies receive no benefit from them. The biomarkers we use to predict patients who will benefit perform poorly, which inspired me to undertake a project looking for accurate predictive biomarkers of immunotherapy response. This research will help us understand how the immune cells within a tumour function, and to discover if single-cell genomics can be developed into a real-time, functional test.
Dr Venessa Chin hopes that one day lung cancer will become a “thing of the past”.
What have been some of the key findings?
So far, I have ascertained that cell biopsies taken from patients can be cultured in the lab and exposed to immunotherapy successfully. They are also well suited to analysis with single-cell sequencing. Small changes in the tumour micro-environment can be detected after exposure to immunotherapy and quantified.
How do you envision this will impact the health and wellbeing of patients?
I envision that in the future, a fresh biopsy will be taken from a patient and plated in culture in the lab. After exposure to immunotherapy, the ability of the immune system to activate and kill cancer cells will be measured.
How important was funding from Lung Foundation Australia for your work?
This funding is incredibly important to allow me dedicated research time away from my clinical work. It will also pay for a research assistant and sequencing costs.
A number of our research awards are funded through generous donations from patients and families impacted by lung disease. What would you say to someone considering donating?
Patients with lung cancer have a high degree of suffering, with generally poor survival outcomes and limited access to effective therapies. They also have limited access to supportive services. Donations to lung cancer research can make a big difference to a large group of patients with high care needs.
Donations to research can make a big difference to changing the lives of people with lung cancer.
What change do you hope to see in the lung disease and lung cancer space by 2030?
I hope that lung cancer screening is being implemented in Australia. I also hope that the rates of smoking continue to fall towards zero. I anticipate we will have more accurate methods of tailoring therapies for patients, based on cellular markers or real-time functional assays (biological testing).
Dr Venessa Chin hopes that research will discover a cure for lung cancer.