Call for applications to tackle gaps in breast cancer early diagnosis and prevention research.

In 2013, Breast Cancer Now identified a need for research that would better identify women at high risk of breast cancer, and that would lead to interventions to reduce their risk. This included support for the introduction of risk stratified screening within the UK’s breast screening programmes. The challenges were highlighted in the publication “Critical research gaps and translational priorities for the successful prevention and treatment of breast cancer”1. These challenges still remain to be addressed.

Our aim

Breast Cancer Now’s strategy shows how we want to help prevent breast cancer and stop deaths from breast cancer by:

  • Supporting efforts to create a more refined risk-adapted screening programme, in addition to screening based on gender and age
  • Developing research and interventions that reduce the risk of breast cancer
  • Supporting women who attend breast screening to take action to reduce their risk of breast cancer

Our research is contributing to developing and improving the risk assessment and interventions for women in different breast cancer risk categories. We want to extend this work by continuing to fund research in this critical area. This could involve, for instance, reducing the frequency of screening for those at lower risk, or offering additional screening interventions for those at higher risk.

We are looking to fund research to find out whether this approach would be acceptable to women, particularly to those that are not yet invited to routine screening. We want to know if such a plan would be feasible, and whether it would deliver a reduction in cases of breast cancer, but do this within NICE’s cost effectiveness thresholds for new technology assessments. We will also consider research into improving ways to detect cancer in higher risk women with dense breasts.

In the longer term we also want to support more research to integrate appropriate prevention interventions within these groups, and to make clinicians and the public more aware of the benefits and potential side effects of different interventions.

Ultimately, Breast Cancer Now is seeking evidence as to whether it is possible and appropriate to offer women risk adapted screening and prevention interventions. We want to see breast cancer not just diagnosed earlier, but prevented in the first place.

In this call, we will consider research projects that will provide evidence to implement risk adapted screening in the UK. This could include:

  • Feasibility or pilot studies within the breast screening service
  • Research to improve current risk prediction models, such as through adding information about breast density or SNPs
  • Studies to determine the acceptability of risk adapted screening for women to whom it would be offered, and how the messages about screening according to risk should best be communicated
  • Research into the most clinical and cost effective screening modalities for the different risk groups

We will give priority to projects that are likely to have the largest potential impact on preventing cases of breast cancer.

Although we are unable to support large randomised control trials, we can support the pilot studies in support of a larger trial. However, we would be interested in potential partnerships with others to jointly fund larger trials.

Applications from multidisciplinary groups are particularly welcome.

We will accept applications from established researchers with a strong track record, based at an eligible academic research institution in the UK. Please note that we are unable to accept applications for PhD studentships.

We are expecting to fund one project in this funding round. Applications may be of any duration, but must not exceed £300,000 in costs. We will consider joint funding of a project, with Breast Cancer Now’s contribution being up to £300,000. Please contact us at geraldine.byrne@breastcancernow.org if you wish to discuss this option.

For an application form and further information about how to apply, please email Geraldine Byrne at geraldine.byrne@breastcancernow.org.

The closing date for applications is 12 January 2018.

The applications will be reviewed in early 2018. Further details about the review committee will be put on our website shortly.


1 Eccles et al. (2013) Breast Cancer Research 15:R92, available online at BioMed Central