Breast cancer treatments must be personalised to each individual. Our research aims to improve treatment options and ensure all patients can access the right treatment for them. 

Breast cancer is not just one disease – there are more than 20 different types of breast cancer that we know of. That’s why treatments must be highly targeted, personalised to each unique individual and their particular form of breast cancer. But there’s more we need to know before we can truly fit the right treatment to the right person.

The ambition

By 2025, by improving treatment options we believe 13,000 more women will have their primary breast cancer effectively treated.

By 2030, we believe we will have identified what causes different tumours to grow and progress, enabling us to select the best treatment for every patient.

Our approach

Our research into new treatments has changed the landscape for breast cancer patients. Now, we must develop treatments that are highly targeted and as unique as each individual patient, ensure all patients can access the right treatment for them and that everyone living with and beyond breast cancer receives the support they need.

Making sure the government continues to invest in science and research and that the environment in which research takes place is working as best it can will be critical. To do this, we must ensure the legal framework supports innovations in treatment and that Higher Education is delivering the skills and the workforce needed to develop the treatments of tomorrow.

We need to know what kick-starts breast cells to become cancerous, and tumours to form, and what triggers their growth and makes the disease progress for each patient. Our researchers are sifting through vast collections of tumour tissue and DNA from women with different types of breast cancer to help understand how the different forms of the disease develop and behave. This pioneering research is already speeding up progress towards developing new drugs and directing existing treatments more effectively. Our researchers are also studying how to stop cancers from progressing by looking at the process of cell death, where potentially harmful cells commit suicide to protect the body. This process doesn’t work in cancer cells, so our researchers are trying to find ways to kick-start cell death.

Finding the right treatment for each patient means understanding how they respond to drugs and developing tests to predict this in advance. This will help tailor the type and intensity of treatment, in some cases allowing patients to safely avoid treatments where the potential side effects outweigh the benefits.

We must also find ways to stop breast cancers developing resistance to treatments. Our researchers are studying resistance to drugs like tamoxifen and PARP inhibitors to understand how cancer cells evade treatments, so that we can learn how to deal with resistance by either changing treatment regimens, or by avoiding resistance in the first place.

Hard-to-treat breast cancers present a further challenge. We must find effective treatments for patients whose options are currently limited. There are still no targeted treatments approved for triple negative disease, which affects 15% of women with breast cancer. Our researchers are leading a practice-changing study called the Triple Negative Trial, which is aiming to work out which of two chemotherapy drugs work best for women with triple negative breast cancer. We’re also working to develop new drugs for these patients.

While it’s vital to treat the physical symptoms of breast cancer, it’s also essential to ensure a patient’s emotional wellbeing is taken care of to protect their long-term quality of life. Our researchers have shown that up to 60% of people with breast cancer stop taking their anti-hormone treatments, such as tamoxifen, before the end of five years, which increases the chances of their disease coming back. By talking to patients and healthcare professionals, our researchers are getting to the bottom of this problem and designing ways to support people taking tamoxifen to ensure they get the maximum benefit from the drug, increasing their quality of life and chances of survival.

More information

Find out more about the research projects we are funding