The staff, students, volunteers and Board of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, a partnership between Austin Health and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), send Olivia their well wishes as she undergoes treatment following the relapse of her breast cancer, and are sending her positive thoughts for a speedy recovery.

Olivia, as the founding champion of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre (ONJ Centre), has long been committed to supporting wellness programs and improving the treatment and care of people with cancer through innovative research.

Prof Jonathan Cebon, the Medical Director of ONJCRI and of Cancer Services at Austin Health, said he was saddened to hear Olivia’s cancer had returned. “Late relapses from breast cancer can occur, especially for women with ‘hormone receptor-positive’ breast cancer,” Prof Cebon said. “These relapses can occur sometimes even decades after initial treatment for early breast cancer. This unpredictability of breast cancer, and its ability to return after many years, is an area of active research at the institute through our Translational Breast Cancer Program.”

Dr Belinda Yeo, who is leading this research, is trying to find better ways to estimate recurrence risk in patients diagnosed with hormone-receptor positive early breast cancer.

“Our laboratory is focused on how breast cancer cells first initiate spread to other parts of the body and why and how tumour cells that lie dormant for long periods of time can become active again,” Dr Yeo said.

“We are trying to better understand which women are at risk of late relapse events, so that their treatment can be tailored accordingly.”

Dr Yeo, who treats breast cancer patients through the ONJ Centre, said there were many treatments, including radiotherapy and various types of hormone therapy that could be very effective in treating late relapse. “Newer targeted therapies are providing significant improvements alongside standard therapies,” she said. “The ONJ Centre has several clinical trials investigating these novel targeted therapies for patients with metastatic breast cancer.”