Breast cancer: Fund vital research to understand the role of genetics

Last updated: 23/12/2013

Why this research is needed

Women and men fundraising for Breast Cancer Awareness MonthMore than 48,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Thanks partly to the contribution of our scientists in advancing prevention, diagnosis and treatment, more than 8 out of 10 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK now survive the disease beyond five years.

But the disease still claims the lives of around 12,000 women every year - so there is still much more that we need to do.

The impact of our work

Breast cancer develops when the DNA of healthy cells is damaged. Generally, our body can repair this damage before cells become cancerous, but occasionally these repair processes don’t work.

Professor Kevin Hiom is studying how the repair process works in normal cells and how, in some cells, mistakes in this process can lead to cancer. His work could provide clues to new ways of diagnosing and treating breast cancer, and help save more lives in the future.

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Project closed – November 2013

We’re very excited to announce that we’ve reached the fundraising target for Professor Hiom’s research into the role of genetics in breast cancer!

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this project, helping to raise £50,000 for life-saving research. It's because of your support and our pioneering work, that more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before.

Fundraising and donations to this project have now closed, but you can still support our research into breast cancer. Take a look at the project below and with your help we will beat this disease sooner:

Breast cancer: Support our pioneering work to beat breast cancer sooner

Why do healthy cells switch sides?

Searching for the weak link

DNA is the genetic 'instruction manual' found in all our cells. If DNA becomes damaged, and is not repaired properly, then the cell may get the wrong instructions and start to multiply out of control. This can lead to cancer.

DNA can be damaged in a number of ways - there can be errors made during the normal processes that cells undergo when they multiply - by factors in our environment and lifestyle such as diet or smoking. Some people also inherit faults in specific genes that increase their risk of developing cancer.

Read more

Usually cells are able to spot and repair DNA damage, using a complex repair network called the DNA Damage Response (DDR). The DDR involves many genes and molecules in our cells, including a gene called BRCA1.

Unfortunately, some women inherit a faulty version of BRCA1, which increases their risk of developing breast cancer because their cells cannot efficiently repair DNA damage.

The culprit

The DDR is very complex and the way BRCA1 controls it is not clear. Professor Kevin Hiom of the University of Dundee, is investigating how BRCA1 coordinates and manages all the different jobs of the DDR.

His group is studying exactly what the role of BRCA1 is and are also trying to identify the other genes and molecules involved in keeping our DNA in good shape. Professor Hiom is working to clarify who the major players are in the process, how they talk to each other and what they do.

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The difference you can make

Thanks to Professor Hiom's work, we will understand more about how BRCA1 and other molecules involved in DNA repair work and what they do. This could be used to find new ways of diagnosing and treating breast cancer, both in women who have inherited faulty BRCA1 genes and those who haven't.

Please support life-saving research into the UK's most common cancer.