Our Breast Cancer research
Breast cancer is still the most common cancer for women in Wales with around 2,800 women and 15 men diagnosed each year. Every October we raise awareness and money for breast cancer, so we can find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat it.
Half a century of cancer research
Tenovus Cancer Care has a long history of funding research into breast cancer. Back in 1975, scientists at the Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research were among the first to show that Tamoxifen was actually highly effective at stopping the growth of breast cancer cells. Since then, Tamoxifen has gone on to be the most successful and widely used breast cancer drug in the world, saving the lives of millions of women.
Today we continue to support innovative world-class breast cancer research here in Wales. Every year we fund around £1 million of research and this year £75,000 of that is specifically looking at breast cancer.
How research progresses
Back in 2009 we funded a PhD student called Luke Piggott who was looking into secondary tumours in breast cancer patients. Secondary tumours happen when cancer spreads to other places, and are much harder to treat.
Within these secondary tumours there is one cell that's thought to come from a cancer stem cell (these are cells in our bodies which can divide and become lots of different kinds of cells which do different things e.g skin, muscle, nerves etc) which causes the primary tumours, and causes the tumours to spread.
Luke found that one combination of drugs was very good at killing these stem cells and treating breast cancer. Often cancer drugs kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells but the treatment Luke found was very targeted, only killing cancer cells. Luke’s research used cells that were grown in the lab, but we really want to know whether the same thing works when using real breast cancer tissue.
In 2013, Luke went on to Co-supervise a new PhD student, Andreia Silva who would help continue this research.
Andreia's work uses real breast cancer tissues from patients. This study is the next step towards clinical trials and these drugs being used to treat actual breast cancer patients. Andreia is now in the final year of her research and the project will complete at the end of 2016.
Moving discoveries forward
Silvia is investigating the role of zinc in tumour growth. Zinc is essential for life and everyone needs zinc in their diet to keep healthy. The Taylor group have been investigating the molecules in our body that move zinc into cells in order to keep them healthy and helped make some interesting discoveries about how important zinc is to encourage cells to grow more. Cancer cells often grow too much and we are now able to stop this growth by blocking this zinc mechanism. Most of the results gained so far have been generated using the group’s unique breast cancer models that mirror what happens when breast cancer patients are treated with the most commonly used drugs. It is hoped that Silvia’s project will move this discovery forward to benefit primarily breast cancer patients and ultimately other cancer patients as well.
If you'd like to find out more about our research, click here.