Understanding how a person’s genes can increase their risk of lobular breast cancer - Image of researchers in a lab

Dr Elinor Sawyer and her team

Project details

Researcher: Dr Elinor Sawyer

Location: King’s College London

Project title: Understanding how a person’s genes can increase their risk of lobular breast cancer

Key area: Prevention

The challenge

Breast tumours that occur in the milk-producing lobes of the breast are called ‘lobular breast cancer’, and account for up to 15 per cent of breast cancer cases. However, lobular breast cancer is often not seen on a mammogram, and the number of cases is rising.  Therefore it is vital we find ways to predict who is at risk of developing breast cancer. People at a higher risk might then have closer monitoring to spot the disease early and improve their chances of survival.

Project description

With the help of previous funding from Breast Cancer Now, Dr Sawyer has found a small variation in the DNA code that is connected to an increased risk of developing lobular breast cancer. In this project, Dr Sawyer hopes to find out what exactly this genetic variation does, and why it increases risk of lobular breast cancer.

She will do this by looking at the DNA of thousands of women with lobular breast cancer to confirm which genetic variations are most strongly associated with the disease. Using lobular breast cancer cells grown in the lab, Dr Sawyer will investigate what effect the genetic variation has on other genes nearby, and how this variation affects the behaviour of these cancer cells.

What difference will this project make?

Dr Sawyer’s research could lead to a genetic test which would identify people who are at increased risk of lobular breast cancer, meaning they could receive closer monitoring such as MRI scans. It may also identify opportunities for new treatments for lobular breast cancer. Ultimately this work will improve the diagnosis and chances of survival for people with lobular breast cancer.

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