We’re Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, created by the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer to fund critical research into the disease.
At our heart we have a clear ambition. To make sure that, by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live.
But it’s only by standing together – scientists, fundraisers, families, colleagues and campaigners – that we’ll make it happen.
Secondary breast cancer
Each month, 1,000 women in the UK die from breast cancer. Almost all of these deaths are a result of cancer that started in the breast but has spread to other parts of the body – what’s known as secondary breast cancer.
As secondary breast cancer develops, it causes damage to the parts of the body it has spread to. Eventually that damage will become life-threatening.
Secondary breast cancer is currently an incurable disease.
Treatments can help slow its progress and lower the chances of it spreading further but they can stop working because the patient’s cancer becomes resistant to them.
We don’t know what causes secondary breast cancer to develop – and it can sometimes lie dormant in the body for years, even if a person has seemingly been successfully treated. This leaves thousands of breast cancer survivors and their families living with the fear that their breast cancer might return as secondary breast cancer.
A woman in the UK dies from secondary breast cancer every 45 minutes. She’s not just a statistic – she’s someone’s mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend.
We’re determined to stop this disease taking the lives of the women we love. But to do this, we need to understand why breast cancer spreads and how to stop it. And that’s where our work comes in.
Breast Cancer Now supports nearly 450 of the world’s brightest researchers. Many of our researchers are focused entirely on secondary breast cancer – trying to understand the processes that allow breast cancer to spread and, eventually, to kill.
We also support their work with campaigns and health programmes that mean more women benefit from their discoveries, faster.
We’re identifying the women most at risk
One of the biggest challenges with secondary breast cancer is that we don’t know who it will affect. So our researchers are looking for signals in the blood of women who’ve had breast cancer already, which can tell us if the cancer is going to spread. For women who’ve already lived through breast cancer once, this could reassure them that their breast cancer is unlikely to return or spread.
We’re stopping cancer cells in their tracks
Finding new treatments is crucial for women with secondary breast cancer. That’s why our researchers are studying powerful cells like those from our immune system to see if we can harness their ability to keep our bodies safe from disease. Working with our bodies’ natural defences could stop secondary breast cancer before the disease gets a chance to take hold.
We’re developing new and better treatments
Once breast cancer starts to spread away from the breast, it’s a race against time to block its path. We have teams of researchers working to develop new treatments to do this. Some of these treatments work by targeting what are known as ‘cancer stem cells’, which could be responsible for starting new tumours in other areas of the body. If we can kill these cells with drugs, we can give women with breast cancer more time.
Existing drugs are also important – by finding out which ones work well together and result in fewer side effects, we can give women with secondary breast cancer more treatment options and a better quality of life.
We’re campaigning for better access to life-extending drugs
Drugs exist that can give women with secondary breast cancer more time with their families, but not everyone can access them because they’re priced too high for the NHS. We’re campaigning to bring about changes in the way breast cancer treatments are assessed and made available on the NHS, working with the Government and devolved nations, the NHS and the pharmaceutical industry to put women first – because we don’t believe you can put a price on life.
We’re giving everyone more time to live
By 2050, we believe we’ll find solutions that mean secondary breast cancer will be a disease you can live with requiring careful management, but no longer taking the lives of the women we love.
Make the last one a reality.