Dr Simon Vincent
Director of Research, Support and Influencing, Breast Cancer Now
Personalisation in breast cancer research, services, treatment and support is essential, and collaboration is key to deliver it.
Personalised breast cancer treatment is not new – every patient is genetically unique, as is their tumour. However, beyond treatment, it has a critical role in prevention and in supporting patients, says Dr Simon Vincent, Director of Research, Support and Influencing at charity Breast Cancer Now.
Leading the way
“We are conducting innovative research to identify people at higher risk of breast cancer, so they could be offered more frequent screening to catch any breast changes earlier, and potentially the option of chemoprevention. In addition to patient benefit, this approach promises efficiencies for over-stretched NHS resources,” he says.
Breast Cancer Now also funds research to further personalise treatments, including a study to identify genetic changes that occur in tumours which could be exploited to design new drugs. In partnership with Pfizer, the charity is also funding a trial of an existing lung cancer drug as a treatment for lobular breast cancer in its efforts to create best-tailored treatments for patients.
The charity provides personalised support to patients through its targeted courses and free helpline staffed by nurses, all of which patients can be signposted to. “We want the healthcare practitioner community to know that we can pick up some of the load of supporting patients,” says Dr Vincent.
We are conducting innovative research to identify people at higher risk of breast cancer, so they could be offered more frequent screening to catch any breast changes earlier.
The impact of COVID-19
The pandemic prompted Breast Cancer Now to rapidly repivot its support services online. “We will return to face-to-face patient support when we can, our online support has removed some access barriers, and we will factor this into our offering permanently,” says Dr Vincent.
Right now, the charity’s work is more vital than ever, because of the many different ways COVID-19 has affected people with breast cancer, healthcare professionals and researchers – from delays in screening, changes in treatment, paused clinical trials, and lost hours in the lab.
Partnerships – across universities, pharmaceuticals, NHS, charities, funders, and patients – are integral to bringing hope through breast cancer research. “Partnership working has enabled us to progress our efforts to personalise treatments, such as identifying carboplatin as a better choice of chemotherapy for secondary triple negative breast cancer patients who carry mutations in the BRCA genes; going forwards it’s critical that we harness the power of collaboration.” says Dr Vincent.