PUBLISHED ON: 10 July 2015

In June 2015, Breast Cancer Now launched with a defining belief – if we all act now, by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live. We’ve had an incredibly positive response to this ambitious aim and our amazing supporters are with us every step of the way.

It’s thanks to the expertise of leading researchers that we’ve been able to set our sights on this ambitious target, and in this blog series we’ll be hearing from world-leading experts across the breast cancer community about what they believe needs to happen to stop women dying from the disease by 2050.

The challenge

Nearly 12,000 women and 80 men every year in the UK lose their lives to breast cancer. These people are not just statistics, they all have their own story to tell as well as family and friends, hopes and fears, like the women in our advert The Last One. While it’s likely that Alex, Rashpal, Mary, Emma and Julie from the ad won’t be the last to die from secondary breast cancer, all of us at Breast Cancer Now believe there will be a last one.

The last one to die from breast cancer – can it be done?

At Breast Cancer Now, we know that 2050 is an ambitious target to achieve something as significant as stopping breast cancer taking lives. For some people, 35 years doesn’t seem like very long at all. For others, including many of the estimated 600,000 people living in the UK with breast cancer today, 2050 won’t come soon enough.

Looking back over the last 35 years, an incredible amount of progress has been made against breast cancer. Since 1980, the percentage of people who die within 10 years of being diagnosed has more than halved, from around 52 per cent to around 22 per cent. And by bringing together all those working to stop breast cancer – scientists, policy makers, fundraisers, families, colleagues and campaigners – we’re confident the next 35 years will bring even greater progress.

Professor Rob Coleman

Professor Rob Coleman, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Sheffield, explains what needs to happen to make The Last One a reality by 2050.


How did we decide on 2050?

The 2050 goal is not something new for Breast Cancer Now. It was in fact an ambition of our legacy charities – Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Importantly, we didn’t decide what was achievable on our own. Our 2050 ambition was the result of independent calculations from both charities in collaboration with leading researchers across several fields of expertise. What’s more, as separate charities, we marked out strikingly similar milestones along the way to 2050, which this blog series will explore in more depth.

The road ahead – our action plan

We’ve recently published our action plan which reveals the work we’re doing to achieve our 2050 ambition, and the milestones along the way, focusing on four key themes: 

  • Risk and prevention: if we’re to stop people developing breast cancer in the first place, we need to know who is most at risk of the disease and what we can do to prevent them from developing it
  • Early detection and diagnosis: diagnosing breast cancer quickly and accurately is vital, as the earlier breast cancer is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chances of survival
  • Treatments: breast cancer is not just one disease, so we need to ensure treatments are highly targeted, personalised to each unique individual and their particular form of breast cancer
  • Secondary breast cancer: when breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it becomes incurable, so we must ramp up research efforts to stop women dying from the disease

Our work across all of these areas is essential to our aim of stopping people dying from breast cancer. In the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing each of these themes in more detail and looking at what needs to be done to help us achieve our 2050 ambition. 

We aren’t saying we can stop everyone getting breast cancer – though we hope to help prevent as many cases as possible. For the cases we can’t prevent, we believe we can turn breast cancer into a chronic disease. People will develop breast cancer and be treated for it – but they can live with their disease, not die from it.

Look out for further posts in this blog series over the coming weeks.