Tackling secondary breast cancer
When cancer spreads from the breast to other parts of the body, such as the bones, lungs, liver and brain, it can sometimes be treated and controlled, but not cured. This is known as ‘secondary breast cancer’ or ‘metastatic breast cancer’. Ultimately, this is the main reason why people die from the disease.
By 2020, we hope 25% fewer people will develop secondary breast cancer, and by 2030, more than half of those who develop secondary breast cancer will survive beyond five years.
Where we are now
Unfortunately, secondary breast cancer is not yet preventable or curable. Our Gap Analysis highlighted the need to do much more to understand the biology of the disease and how to effectively tackle it.
We need to better understand when and how cancer cells escape and spread to become incurable metastatic breast cancer, if we are to find ways to stop this becoming life-threatening.
We need more research into how novel therapies and combinations of existing drugs affect metastatic breast cancer, in order to optimise the treatment that patients receive.
We also need to find out exactly how many people are living with secondary breast cancer to assess the level of support that’s needed. Healthcare professionals also need guidance on how best to help people living with advanced disease as standards and consistency of treatment and care vary across the country.
So far, we have funded projects worth £7.5 million in this area.
Our 2013 Gap Analysis provides the basis for how we can advance work in this area and we’re committed to doing so.
- Aim to increase our investment to £11.5 million in research and campaigning over the next 10 years to fill the gaps in tackling secondary breast cancer and drive improvements for women who are affected
- Support research to determine the role normal cells surrounding the tumour play in secondary cancer spread and response to treatment
- Expand our collection of metastatic cancer samples, as well as begin collection of sequential tissue samples via our Tissue Bank, to enable scientists to study treatment response, resistance, indicators of relapse and progression from primary to metastatic cancers
- Fund further research into the critical issue of bone metastasis, affecting around 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer
- Better determine a patient's response to treatment for secondary breast cancer using imaging techniques, improving the chances of survival and quality of life
- Test the effectiveness of existing drugs and identify a successful treatment to prevent the spread of triple negative breast cancer