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Top 10 Gaps in Breast Cancer Research

brain neuronsUnderstanding how to translate lifestyle cancer prevention recommendations into action is one of the “critical gaps” in research that can save lives, finds a new study published in Breast Cancer Research. The study identifies ten critical gaps in breast cancer research. The authors include more than 100 experts.

Developing interventions and support to improve breast cancer survivors’ health and well-being is another gap in the research. Other critical areas where more research is needed include genetics, molecular markers, treatment and tailored screening and survivorship materials. Convincing clinicians to shift their practice into prevention is another area that needs work, according to the study.

As the study points out, when it comes to lifestyle change for breast cancer prevention, there remain many unknowns. We don’t know the relative effect of lifestyle changes on lowering the risk of different types of breast cancers, such as ER negative or ER positive. Does the effect of eating habits depend upon whether you are 15 years old or 50? And how many years do these lifestyle interventions offer protection?

The top ten gaps the authors identify are:

  1. Understanding the specific functions and contextual interactions of genetic and epigenetic changes in the normal breast and the development of cancer
  2. Effective and sustainable lifestyle changes (diet, exercise and weight) alongside chemopreventive strategies
  3. Tailored screening approaches including clinically actionable tests
  4. Molecular drivers behind breast cancer subtypes, treatment resistance and metastasis
  5. Mechanisms of tumor heterogeneity, tumor dormancy, de novo or acquired resistance; how to target the key nodes in these dynamic processes
  6. Validated markers of chemosensitivity and radiosensitivity
  7. Interactions, duration, sequencing and optimal combinations of therapy for improved individualization of treatment
  8. Optimized multimodality imaging for diagnosis and therapeutic monitoring should enable better evaluation of primary and metastatic disease
  9. Interventions and support to improve the survivorship experience including physical symptoms such as hot flashes and lymphedema
  10. Clinically annotated tissues for translational research including tumor, non-tumor and blood based materials from primary cancers, relapsed and metastatic disease

Suzanne A Eccles et al. "Critical research gaps and translational priorities for the successful prevention and treatment of breast cancer." Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R92.

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