Breast Cancer Now announces four research grants worth £700,000

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Breast Cancer Now has today announced four new research grants – totalling more than £700,000 – to fund pioneering research into secondary breast cancer. The four projects – based at universities across the UK – aim to tackle the spread of breast cancer and uncover new ways to halt the growth of tumours that have spread away from the breast.

When breast cancer spreads around the body – known as secondary (or metastatic) breast cancer – it sadly becomes incurable, and almost all of the 11,500 women that die as a result of breast cancer each year in the UK will have seen their cancer spread. Although secondary breast cancer is currently incurable, thanks to continued investment in research, it is now possible to live with the disease for many years.

There are several reasons why secondary breast cancer is so difficult to treat and why stopping its spread remains one of the most critical research questions facing breast cancer scientists. Cancer cells may undergo changes in their DNA which mean treatments that worked on primary tumours are no longer effective. In addition, some locations that breast cancer spreads to – such as the bone or brain – are difficult to access via surgery, making it difficult – or in some cases impossible – to remove tumours. Sometimes secondary tumours are more aggressive and grow more quickly than they did in the breast, and sometimes they travel around the body where they lie dormant, before awakening in these parts of the body years later.

These grants – announced today on Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day (Friday 13th October 2017) – have been made possible by the incredible generosity of the charity’s supporters, and represent four of the many exciting research projects that Breast Cancer Now is currently funding into metastatic breast cancer, to ensure that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer lives.

Professor Claire Lewis, based at the University of Sheffield has been awarded more than £140,000 to fund research that aims to stop triple negative breast cancer – a highly aggressive subtype of breast cancer – returning and spreading around the body. Professor Lewis will investigate whether using drugs that target two molecules, called CXCR4 and VEGFA can prevent or delay triple negative breast cancer returning and spreading.

Dr Rob Clarke, based at the Breast Cancer Now Research Unit at the University of Manchester has been awarded over £195,000 to investigate whether certain drugs could stop breast cancer spreading to the bone. Dr Clarke will investigate how a molecule called interleukin 1-beta helps breast cancer stem cells migrate to the bone, and survive once there.

Dr Georgia Mavria, based at the University of Leeds has been awarded almost £200,000 to tackle the spread of breast cancer to the brain. Dr Mavria will investigate how a molecule called DOCK4 helps breast cancer cells spread, as well as exploring whether levels of DOCK4 could be used to predict whether breast cancer will spread to the brain.

Professor Nicola Sibson, based at the University of Oxford has been awarded nearly £200,000 to uncover new treatment combinations to control breast cancer that has spread to the brain. Professor Sibson will investigate the effects of different combinations of anti-inflammatory drugs on tumour growth, as well as exploring how they might be able to predict which patients are most likely to benefit from anti-inflammatory drugs.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “Far too many women are still dying from breast cancer and it’s imperative that we continue to fund research to prevent and stop the spread of this devastating disease.

“We’re absolutely delighted to announce these exciting new projects, led by some of the UK’s brightest minds and which have been made possible only through the generosity of our incredible supporters throughout the UK.

“World-class research is how we’ll stop this disease taking lives. Secondary breast cancer is not only incurable but constantly evolving, finding new ways to outsmart treatments – and we need to remain hot on its heels.

“We need to tackle the disease from all angles – whether it is prevention, early detection, developing better treatments, or identifying those who would benefit most from therapy. Our ambition is that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live. But if we are to achieve this, we must all act now.”

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