Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women in the UK. Changes in genes such as BRCA1 mean that some women are at a very high risk of developing the disease. We are developing new approaches addressing which changes in the gene are most likely to put health at risk and which are not. Not only is this helpful in managing and improving treatment of the disease, it is also changing our understanding of how breast cancer itself develops.
Around 48,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year, and it costs around 11,000 lives. The 20 year survival rate is still just 64% for women with breast cancer. Improvements have been made, but it is essential we understand the condition in even more depth than ever if we are to continue to make progress and save lives.
Breast cancer, like many other cancers, is in fact many diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises 17 different types. Clinical management of disease relies on understanding the molecular changes that occur within each tumour.
Sadly, some forms of breast cancer have no effective therapies and there is an urgent need to develop therapies that target these cancers, and to spare women from aggressive treatments if they will not in fact benefit.
Research at Birmingham will form the bedrock for the development of new breast cancer drugs, and ensure that each individual woman with the condition is treated in the best possible way for her.
In a controlled laboratory environment we are developing cellular models of the genetics of breast cancer development. This means that the way cells change and become cancerous can be studied. These studies begin in ‘normal’ cells so that researchers hope to identify ‘markers’ of the way cancers develop. These experiments will form the basis of testing tumours in a more accurate way, giving doctors and patients an indication of whether particular tumours will or won’t respond to certain treatments. This helps patients’ chances of beating the disease, or prevents needless and traumatic treatment if it will not.
With your support, our researchers are in a unique position to make a difference not only to those living with cancer in the UK, but also in developing research in the rest of the world.
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