Precision Breast Cancer Institute

Breast Cancer Programme

Around 55,900 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK yearly. Almost 9 in 10 people with breast cancer in England and Wales survive for at least five years; however, around 1,000 UK women still die of breast cancer every month. Our research is aiming to increase the survival rate through: Collaboration: connecting researchers with an interest in Breast Cancer & their expertise across Cambridge; Personalising breast cancer treatment: understanding individual breast cancers and how they respond to different treatments; Novel Clinical trial designs: Efficient ways to test new treatments & rapid translation between clinic & lab.

The Breast Cancer Virtual Institute is part of the CRUK Cambridge Centre
Overview of the Breast Cancer Programme

We are a team of experts in laboratory, translational and clinical research who collaborate to achieve an ambitious aim – to provide personalised, precision treatments for people with breast cancer.

The overarching vision of the Breast Programme is to develop an integrated clinical-translational platform bridging basic science to clinical impact that improves survival for all sub-types of breast cancer whilst de-escalating treatment appropriately to avoid unnecessary toxicity. The Breast Programme prioritises answering critical clinical questions by understanding the biology underlying interconnecting networks that drive the different breast cancer sub-types and the different transition states of breast cancer. 

The Vision for the Breast Programme has been driven by the questions that matter to our patients:

• Can my cancer be cured / what is the chance I might die?

• What is the best treatment option for me and why?

• How early will I know if my treatment is working?

• Are my family also at risk?

• What are the potential side-effects?

• Do I need more treatment or closer follow-up?

• How will I know if my disease is returning?

The long term aim of the Breast Cancer Virtual Institute is to deliver precision breast cancer care locally, regionally and nationally using the new Precision Breast Cancer Institute as the foundation for a new treatment paradigm that can be deployed nationally and potentially internationally.

Breast Cancer Virtual Institute YouTube Channel

Online video content featuring programme members or research can be viewed on our YouTube Channel:

Cambridge Precision Breast Cancer Symposium, 10th Feb 2023, Clare College.

The first Cambridge Precision Breast Cancer Symposium took place at the Gillespie Centre, Clare College, Cambridge on the 10th Feb. Researchers from Cambridge met with colleagues from across the UK, industry representatives and people who are living with breast cancer. International Keynote speakers Ramona Woitek, Head of the Medical Image Analysis and Artificial Intelligence Research Group, Danube Private University, Austria and Prof Judy Garber Director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, US. Both gave fascinating presentations to open the morning and afternoon sessions.

We heard about Cambridge-based clinical studies and lab-based research from Charlotte Coles and Richard Baird (Department of Oncology), Walid Khaled (Dept of Pharmacology); Dario Bressan, Sunny Omarjee, Kirsty Sawicka and Karen Pinilla (CRUK Cambridge Institute) and Antonis Antoniou (Department of Public Health and Primary Care). 

From outside of Cambridge, Prof Karen Blyth (CRUK Beatson Institute, Glasgow) explained the complex role of the RUNX/CBFb in breast cancer and Luca Magnani (Imperial College London) described the dormancy of ER positive breast cancer though the many acting roles of Daniel Radcliffe. Insights into how computational networks can be used to model individual patient responses to treatment and the creation of biomaterials to model breast tissue were provided through poster presentations from Matthew Clarke (UCL Cancer Institute) and Jennifer Ashworth (University of Nottingham), respectively.  

Special thanks to Annabelle and John who were frank and open sharing their Breast Cancer experiences with the meeting, raising awareness of the impact of a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy and carrying a BRCA mutation and being diagnosed with male breast cancer.

Later in the afternoon we got a global perspective of inequalities in diagnosing and treating Breast cancer from Felicia Knaul (University of Miami). The day ended with Richard Gilbertson sharing current progress with the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital before a well-earned glass of wine.

We have been overwhelmed with the positivity of the feedback from both delegates and speakers, and will be incorporating suggestions into our planning for #CPBC2024

Thank to everyone who attended and made it a memorable day

Cambridge Breast Unit

Cambridge has established a ‘one-stop’ clinic, the Cambridge Breast Unit, for rapid diagnosis of breast cancer. The diagnostic accuracy of the triple assessment (clinical examination, imaging and biopsy) is 99.6%. Nine-year survival rates of breast cancer patients treated at Addenbrookes Hospital is 84%, compared with a regional average of 78%. Around half of patients diagnosed with breast cancer at the clinic enter a clinical trial run by the Cambridge Breast Cancer Research Unit. Find out more about the Cambridge Breast Unit.

Response to hormone therapy

Researchers in Cambridge have identified how the oestrogen receptor-cistrome in primary tumours modulates response to hormone therapy. They demonstrated differential oestrogen receptor (ER) binding events in primary breast cancer (a first ever) and revealed a role for the pioneer factor FoxA1 as a crucial ER regulatory protein in drug resistant contexts, providing the impetus to develop therapeutic FoxA1 inhibitors.

Improved monitoring of response to therapy

Repeat biopsies to study genomic evolution as a result of therapy are difficult, invasive and may be confounded by intra-tumour heterogeneity. We have demonstrated the clear advantages of using circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) over other tests as a biomarker for monitoring treatment response and disease progression in patients with metastatic disease. Specifically, we have developed a new approach, sequencing of cancer exomes in plasma, to study a series of patients who have developed resistance to chemotherapy, hormone therapy and Trastuzumab, with the aim of identifying potential causing mutations.

Breast Cancer Programme news for members

Breast Cancer Programme Newsletter

If you would like to receive the newsletter in future you can request membership here of the Breast Cancer VI here:  

Programme Contacts

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Department of Oncology
Programme Lead
University of Cambridge
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
Programme Lead
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University of Cambridge, Other
Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, Department of Oncology
Breast Cancer Programme Manager