The Breast Cancer Now LEGACY Study for secondary breast cancer

Project details

Researcher: Professor Andrew Tutt, Mr Peter Barry and Dr Gaia Schiavon

Location: The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, London

Project title: The Breast Cancer Now LEGACY Study for Secondary Breast Cancer

Key area: Secondary breast cancer

The Breast Cancer Now LEGACY Study is the first research project of this kind dedicated to secondary breast cancer to be conducted in the UK. The study allows patients with secondary breast cancer to donate their tissues for research just hours after they pass away. The affected tissues will then be comprehensively examined using a range of innovative analytical techniques to help us understand how breast cancer spreads around the body and becomes resistant to therapies.

The donated tissues will form an invaluable resource for breast cancer research, helping the patients who choose to be involved in the study leave a lasting legacy that will change the story for future generations and move us one step closer to stopping women dying from breast cancer.

The study is sponsored by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and was made possible by generous funding from Walk the Walk.

What does the LEGACY Study involve?

To improve the treatment of secondary breast cancer, we need to understand how breast cancer spreads around the body and why it eventually stops responding to treatment once it has done so.

The best way to do this is to study the tissue from the secondary cancer sites. However, accessing the parts of the body that breast cancer spreads to, such as the liver, bones or brain, can be extremely challenging while the patient is alive and one cancerous lesion may not be representative of all lesions. This is one of the reasons we know so little about secondary breast cancer.

The LEGACY study will enable secondary breast cancer patients to donate their cancerous tissues to research shortly after their death.

The procedure will be carried out in a dignified, streamlined manner, meaning patients’ bodies will be returned to their families or funeral home within a few hours for subsequent arrangements to be made.

Our study team will also be enabled to access each participating patient’s detailed medical treatment history and scans, with their consent, to help us understand why their cancer progressed in the way it did.

Participation in the study is entirely voluntary, and we know from speaking to secondary breast cancer patients that many care passionately about making sure other women don’t have to suffer as they have done.

What we’re trying to achieve through the LEGACY Study

The LEGACY Study is an innovative, world-leading study which will improve our understanding of secondary breast cancer. 

We hope that the research made possible by the project will pave the way to a future in which we can predict which primary breast cancer patients will go on to develop secondary breast cancer, develop targeted drugs to treat more effectively this difficult disease and even to prevent the cancer from spreading. 

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