Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)
DCIS is a non-invasive type of breast cancer which is confined to the breast’s milk ducts and has not spread into the surrounding breast tissue. We don’t know enough about the condition to reliably predict which cases of DCIS will progress to invasive breast cancer, and therefore debate has arisen about its routine detection and treatment. The detection of some cancers which may not cause harm to women in their lifetime, for example Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, or DCIS is often discussed in relation to over-diagnosis of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Campaign funded research on DCIS
Our funded research covers the genetics, biology and spread of DCIS, as well as the emotional impact of a diagnosis of DCIS for women. The charity has funded 9 DCIS related projects worth over £1.1 million.
Professor Louise Jones - progression of DCIS to invasive breast cancer (Barts and The London)
Professor Louise Jones demonstrated that the cell adhesion molecule αvβ6 is absent in normal breasts but is switched on in DCIS by myoepithelial cells. αvβ6 is not expressed in normal breasts, and so it provides another potential therapeutic target.
- In a follow up study, Dr Michael Allen is investigating the role of the immune system in the progression of DCIS into invasive breast cancer (Barts). Dr Allen is measuring the amount of αvβ6 in myoepithelial cells, allowing him to establish whether there is a link between the molecule and progression to invasive disease. This project could help find ways to identify which DCIS patients are likely to develop breast cancer, and which would benefit from close monitoring to catch DCIS as soon as it starts to progress into invasive breast cancer.
- Professor Jones is also investigating whether loss of a molecule called MMP-8 by the myoepithelial cells in DCIS is involved in its progression to breast cancer. Knowledge about how MMP 8 is involved in DCIS progression may enable doctors to predict which patients are at risk, and also allow researchers to devise new treatments to prevent progression.
Dr Diana Harcourt/Dr Fiona Kennedy -psychosocial aspects of DCIS (University of the West of England, Bristol)
Campaign-funded PhD student, Dr Fiona Kennedy, investigated the psychosocial needs of women diagnosed with DCIS. Her research discovered that there is enormous variation in how DCIS is described to patients by healthcare professionals, which led people to believe DCIS to be anything from a harmless pre-cancerous condition to a life-threatening disease. Importantly, her work demonstrated that some patients found this lack of consensus extremely distressing, and the project highlighted the need for clear, accurate and consistent information about DCIS.
Dr Elinor Sawyer development of a genetic screen for mutations that predispose to DCIS (King’s College London)
At the present time it is impossible to predict who will develop DCIS. Dr Elinor Sawyer is comparing DNA taken from 3,000 patients with DCIS and 3,000 women without breast cancer for small genetic changes, in the hope of finding such changes which are common to DCIS patients, but less frequently found in the normal population. This will enable the development of a genetic test in the future that will make it possible to identify which women are at high risk of developing DCIS during their lifetime. These women can then be offered more intensive screening or other treatments to try and prevent breast cancer from developing.
DCIS and cancer stem cells (University of Manchester)
Three separate Campaign projects led by Dr Neil Anderson, Professor Nigel Bundred and Dr Keith Brennan have all looked at DCIS cells taken from patients and grown in the lab. Their work has added to a growing body of evidence for the involvement of the molecular interaction known as the “Notch signalling pathway” in DCIS, and its potential as a therapeutic target in breast cancer.
Dr Brennan’s work also identified a molecule that could be used in diagnostic tests for DCIS and determining whether it will become invasive.