NBCF focuses on metastatic breast cancer

April 19th, 2017

Do you know how long breast cancer cells can stay dormant in the body before becoming metastatic?

That was one of the questions NBCF asked Australians, to gauge how much is understood about the metastatic stage of breast cancer.

Metastatic breast cancer is the main cause of death for women and men with the disease and will impact up to a third of women previously diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.i

Funding research into better detection and treatment of metastatic breast cancer is a major focus for NBCF, and 50 per cent of researchers funded in 2017 are working towards a better future for women with metastatic disease.

What do Australians know about metastatic breast cancer?

When asking the Australian public what they know about metastatic breast cancer, most (88 per cent) knew it was the most deadly stage of the disease.

But almost no one (only three per cent) knew that breast cancer can stay dormant in the body for more than 10 years before reappearing.

“We know that breast cancer cells can remain dormant for long periods of time and appear in distant organs many years later,” said Dr Alessandra Muntoni, director of research investment at NBCF.

“Research groups around the world are trying to understand how cancer cells become resistant to treatments, spread to other parts of the body and what triggers these dormant cells to start growing again. This type of research is essential to provide answers for the women and men who live in fear about their cancer recurring.”

Dr Muntoni says significant in-roads have been made in the last few years, but a lot more research is needed to fully understand this problem.

What research does NBCF fund?

breast cancer research
Dr Paul Beavis

Research into metastatic breast cancer is supported by Australians, with two-thirds wanting to see advancements in immunotherapy, an innovative type of treatment that could be a major breakthrough in the near future. NBCF recently funded Dr Paul Beavis (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) who is reprogramming white blood cells so the immune system can recognise, find and destroy any cancer in the body.




Breast cancer researcher
Dr Normand Pouliot

Australians are also interested (44%) in research to progress the development of targeted treatments for this stage of the disease. This is an important area of research and NBCF-funded researcher Dr Normand Pouliot (Olivia Newton-John cancer Research Centre) is investigating treatments that will work specifically on a particularly aggressive subtype of breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer, which has a high likelihood of becoming metastatic.




breast cancer researcher
Dr Sarah-Jane Dawson

A third of Australians are interested in developing new technology that can detect the spread of breast cancer. An NBCF-funded researcher, Dr Sarah-Jane Dawson (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre), is making significant headway in this area, developing a blood test, or liquid biopsy. This type of test could predict if and when breast cancer is returning, alleviating some of the fear related to its return and helping women access available treatments as soon as possible.



i Global Status of Advanced / Metastatic Breast Cancer, 2005-2015 Decade Report, March 2016