Breast cancer treatments must be personalised to each individual. Our research aims to improve treatment options and ensure all patients can access the right treatment for them.
Our research into new treatments has changed the landscape for breast cancer patients. Now, we must develop treatments that are highly targeted and as unique as each individual patient, we need to ensure all patients can access the right treatment for them and that everyone living with and beyond breast cancer receives the support they need.
We need to know what causes breast cells to become cancerous and what causes tumours to form. Our researchers are sifting through vast collections of tumour tissue and DNA from women with different types of breast cancer to try and understand how the disease develops. This pioneering research is already speeding up progress towards developing new drugs and directing existing treatments more effectively. Our researchers are also studying how to stop cancers from progressing by looking at the process of cell death, where potentially harmful cells commit suicide to protect the body. This process doesn’t work in cancer cells, so our researchers are trying to find ways to kick-start cell death.
Finding the right treatment for each patient means understanding how they respond to drugs and developing tests to predict this in advance. This will help tailor the type and intensity of treatment, in some cases allowing patients to safely avoid treatments where the potential side effects outweigh the benefits.
We must also find ways to stop breast cancers developing resistance to treatments. Our researchers are studying drugs like tamoxifen and PARP inhibitors to try and understand why some cancer cells develop resistance to these treatments. This could help us learn how we can prevent and treat the development of treatment resistance in the future.
Hard-to-treat breast cancers present a further challenge. We must find effective treatments for patients whose options are currently limited. There are no currently available targeted treatments for triple negative disease, which affects 15% of women with breast cancer. We’re funding a research unit at King's College London dedicated to understanding more about triple negative breast cancer.
While it’s vital to treat the physical symptoms of breast cancer, it’s also essential to ensure a patient’s emotional wellbeing is taken care of to protect their long-term quality of life. Our researchers have shown that up to 60% of people with breast cancer stop taking their anti-hormone treatments, such as tamoxifen, before the end of five years, which increases the chances of their disease coming back. By talking to patients and healthcare professionals, our researchers are getting to the bottom of this problem and designing ways to support people taking tamoxifen to ensure they get the maximum benefit from the drug, increasing their quality of life and chances of survival.