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This International Women’s Day, meet the women combining research and clinical expertise with business acumen and personal experience to help combat breast cancer.
Breast cancer outcomes have improved drastically over the past 20 years, with around 8 in 10 people surviving their disease for 10 years or more, compared with just 4 in 10 in the 1970s. Our researchers have contributed greatly to this monumental effort. For example, they discovered that there may be up to 11 different subtypes of breast cancer – pivotal insight that has since allowed researchers to follow new paths of discovery in a bid to quell breast cancer’s devastating impact. But it also made clear just how complex a problem breast cancer is and explains why it remains the UK’s most common cancer type, claiming 32 lives every day.
Two women who are acutely aware of why breast cancer research must remain high on the agenda are Professor Jean Abraham, an oncologist and researcher who leads the Cancer Research UK Personalised Breast Cancer Program, and Emma FitzGerald, STEM graduate, business leader and breast cancer survivor, who has supported Professor Abraham’s work both financially and with practical advice on building commercial partnerships and improving patient experience.
The pioneering program has so far recruited 850 volunteers with breast cancer to have the complete set of genes in their tumour read like a barcode – a process called whole-genome sequencing – and compared to the genes in their healthy cells. This information is returned from the lab to the clinic phenomenally fast, within 6–12 weeks, to help doctors quickly understand more about a person’s disease, improve diagnosis and tailor treatments. After its huge success in Cambridge, and with Emma’s help, Professor Abraham now hopes to roll out the program to NHS providers across the country.
Watch the conversation below.