Breast cancer deaths to end if research gaps addressed

October 29th, 2013

A UK report that predicts an end to breast cancer deaths if research gaps are plugged proves NBCF’s research strategy is on track, says NBCF Director, Research Investment, Dr Alison Butt.

Dr Butt was referring to a report where 100 internationally recognised experts from 30 UK universities set out a plan to tackle breast cancer over the coming decades.

“This is a strong endorsement of our zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030 goal,” Dr Butt said. “By strategically investing in research that will address these current gaps in knowledge, we have made, and will continue to make, important advances towards achieving this target.”

The experts, whose report was published this week in the journal Breast Cancer Research, have compiled a list of areas where prevention, diagnosis and treatment could be improved.

Co-author Professor Alistair Thompson, of the University of Dundee, told the BBC that advances in science had transformed knowledge of breast cancer over the past 4-5 years but one important gap in knowledge was how breast cancer spreads and escapes treatment.

Dr Butt said NBCF was funding projects in many of areas identified as gaps. For example, she said NBCF had played a major role in establishing and maintaining two breast cancer tissue banks in Australia – the Australian Breast Cancer Tissue Bank and the Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab). These tissue banks address the 10th gap of the UK report: the need for breast cancer tissue banks to speed up the translation of research findings from the lab to the clinic.

NBCF-funded research included had a strong focus on preventing and treating cancer that had spread beyond the breast (metastasis), and improving the effectiveness of breast screening, Dr Butt said. The top 10 gaps in breast cancer knowledge identified by the UK report are:

Genetic factors in breast cancer.
Lifestyle changes that can prevent breast cancer.
How to target breast screening to those who will most benefit.
The molecular drivers of different types of breast cancer, treatment resistance and breast cancer spread.
Understanding the complexity of breast cancers, including why some cancers come back many years after treatment and why some resist treatment.
Developing markers to predict how patients will respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Better understanding combinations and duration of therapy to individualise treatment.
Improved imaging methods to diagnose breast cancer and to monitor treatment.
Support to improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors, such as preventing and treating lymphoedema.
Breast cancer tissue banks to support translational research.