The Biology of Breast Cancer | Researching How Breast Cancer Develops

Understanding breast cancer biology


We need to discover more about the basic biology of breast cancer, and learn more about how breast cancer actually forms.

Each case of breast cancer is unique. What kick-starts breast cells to become cancerous, and tumours to form, and what makes the disease progress is different for each patient. To develop new treatments to overcome breast cancer, we need to understand the genes, molecules and lifestyle factors that drive breast cancer development.

Our ambition

By 2030, we hope what causes different tumours to grow and progress will be identified, enabling us to select the best treatment for every patient.

Where we are now

We now have much greater knowledge, and more reliable ways to predict how each tumour is likely to progress, and more information about the molecules and processes that drive breast cancer development.

Scientists are able to develop tailored drugs for specific subtypes of breast cancer and we now have a better understanding of triple negative breast cancer.

However, we still need to find out more about breast cancer biology, including how breast cancer cells communicate with each other and their surrounding tissue as they develop. We need to better mimic breast cancer in the laboratory. We also need to understand the role of circulating tumour cells (CTCs) which can be detected in the blood of breast cancer patients.

Our research

So far, we have invested £12.5 million in projects in this area of research.

We will:

  • Aim to increase our investment in this area to £14 million over the next decade through our research funding.
  • Fund further research into triple negative and basal like breast cancer, subtypes of breast cancer with poorer outcomes, partly due to there being no targeted treatments.
  • Develop a mechanism to collect normal tissue, to be able to better understand the changes in the breast as breast cancer develops.
  • Make the world’s largest collection of male breast cancer samples available via our Tissue Bank.