Breast Cancer Research


Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with almost 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Despite credible 5 and 10-year survival rates of approximately 80 and 75% respectively, 12,000 women still succumb annually to the disease.  

At Cancer Research Wales we are proud to fund a number of pioneering research projects that seek to tackle the fundamentals of secondary (metastatic) and treatment resistance breast cancer. The specific aims of these are:


  • Understanding why some breast cancers develop resistance to current anti-hormone therapies.
  • The design, development and evaluation of new treatments for advanced breast cancer.
  • Discovery of new ways to predict disease progression and treatment response.
  • Increased knowledge of the processes that cause breast cancer cells to spread and form secondary tumours (metastasis).


Anti-oestrogen therapies have led to extensive remissions in breast cancer patients. Unfortunately, up to one-third of patients who initially respond to these treatments will eventually develop resistance (endocrine-resistance). One cutting edge project sponsored by CRW is currently exploring the role of a molecule called FAK in endocrine-resistance. Pre-clinical studies show that endocrine-resistant breast cancer cells rely upon FAK for their function and survival, underscoring the value of FAK as a novel drug target for breast cancer treatment. On-going work is also seeking to determine if FAK can be used to predict treatment resistance in breast cancer. This may help identify patients who are at higher risk of relapse and hence require greater surveillance and possible early intervention with other treatments.


Metastasis is the main cause of death in breast cancer patients and its targeting is central for promoting survival. CRW supports research that examines the opposing effects of two closely related molecules called ADAM15A and ADAM15B in this process. It is hoped this research will reveal why some breast tumours are more invasive and aggressive than others and contribute to the development of novel strategies for the prevention of metastasis.


CRW scientists are also looking into the mechanisms of how breast cancer stem cells, which are thought to make up less than 1% of the tumour mass, promote the progression of breast cancer. Findings have shown that certain stem cell markers in breast tumours have prognostic value which in future may help guide clinical decisions. This work received a prestigious merit award at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a meeting that brings together the worlds leading clinicians and scientists to discuss the latest breakthroughs in research and treatment. For more information on the role of cancer stem cells, please refer to the cancer stem cell research leaflet in this series.


CRW funded teams at the Welsh School of Pharmacy are examining the unique anti-cancer properties of disulfiram, a drug previously used in alcohol aversion therapy. Using breast cancer cells, this work has discovered novel mechanisms by which disulfiram can prevent the hormone resistance that some women experience during treatment. This project, in partnership with medicinal chemists in America, will seek to synthesise more potent variants of disulfiram for evaluation in different pre-clinical models of breast cancer.


Cancer Research Wales aims to reduce the impact of cancer on the people of Wales through supporting world class cancer research and education. Because over 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, at CRW we believe it is important to:


  • Discover new treatments.
  • Improve the use of existing treatments.
  • Reduce the risk of metastasis.
  • Understand why some women develop resistance to current treatments.


Download The Breast Cancer Research Leaflet In English

Download The Breast Cancer Research Leaflet In Welsh