Critical gaps in breast cancer research are identified

Breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screening

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have helped a leading charity to identify critical gaps in breast cancer research which need to be urgently addressed to prevent the loss of around 185,000 lives by 2030.

Four world-leading researchers, from the University’s Department of Oncology, assisted the Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC) in a landmark analysis, published today (1 October 2013) in Breast Cancer Research, which shows greater investment, collaboration and renewed focus is vital.

Professor Nicola Brown, Dr Helen Bryant, Professor Angela Cox and Dr Ingunn Holen took part in the pioneering analysis that highlights the top ten gaps and key research priorities in areas such as genetics, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support, which, if overcome, will have a significant impact on the lives of those affected.

The Gap Analysis 2013, which is a unique collaboration of over 100 internationally recognised scientists, clinicians and healthcare professionals, is the most comprehensive review of breast cancer research to have recently taken place and provides information about how to overcome - prevent, cure and outlive - breast cancer by 2050.

Critical gaps identified include: understanding how genetic changes lead to the development of breast cancer, identifying sustainable lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise which can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer, as well as improving risk-reducing drugs (chemo-prevention) for women with increased likelihood of disease development, and targeting breast screening to those who will benefit most, by finding more accurate and practical ways to calculate an individual’s risk of developing breast cancer.

In addition, the paper identifies five key strategic solutions to these gaps to help treat and support those impacted by breast cancer and ultimately assist increasing numbers of women, to prevent and overcome the disease: Reverse the decline in resources targeted towards breast cancer research, find better ways to study breast cancer, test treatments in the laboratory, and identify accurate methods to use in clinical practice to predict how patients respond to treatments.

Professor Nicola Brown said: "This landmark UK Breast Cancer Gap Analysis publication is the culmination of expert opinion from the UK’s leading academic community. This team has identified critical research areas that require additional focus, to improve the diagnosis, treatment and outcome of patients with breast cancer.

"We also wish to gratefully acknowledge the research funding received from the BCC, which continues to support crucial breast cancer research at the University."

The findings by the University of Sheffield research teams have helped inform Breast Cancer Campaign’s new action plan, Help us find the cures, which sets out the charity’s hopes and ambitions for the future prevention and treatment of breast cancer and how the scientific community, funding organisations, industry, policy makers and Government must now join forces to address the gaps. The charity aims to raise 100 million over the next decade to specifically tackle the critical gaps and help make this happen.

Dr Ingunn Holen said: "The University of Sheffield team of scientists and clinicians have made a significant contribution to both the Gap Analysis and the Campaign’s action plan."

The plan sets out eight key ambitions for overcoming breast cancer by 2050, which as a result of the Gap Analysis the charity believes is now possible, if increased investment, focus and collaboration can be achieved.

Breast cancer in the most common cancer in the UK, with around 50,000 women diagnosed each year. It is the second biggest cause of death from cancer in women, with around 12,000 losing their lives from the disease.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: "If we don’t act now, by 2030 more than 1.2 million women could be living with or after a breast cancer diagnosis and around 185,000 lives could have been lost to breast cancer. We want future mothers, daughters and wives to have their breast cancer prevented, cured or for them to outlive the disease, and hope that together we can achieve this by 2050."