Found in translation: Prioritizing research questions in breast cancer

November 21, 2007

The key priorities that will impact on the future treatment of breast cancer have been identified by a group of experts on the disease. Research published in the online open access journal Breast Cancer Research may focus research resources onto the issues highlighted as top priorities.

A team led by Professor Mitch Dowsett, Head of Biochemistry at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, based in London and Surrey, together with colleagues from the USA, Switzerland and Italy carried out an international, web-based consultation to identify the most pressing issues that could be tackled by translational research. Translational research - which is concerned with the transfer of findings from the lab to the clinic - holds huge promise for the individualisation of cancer treatment.

In this study, a database of over 4000 potential participants (breast cancer professionals, including clinicians, research scientists, academics and pathologists) was created using attendee details from two major breast cancer conferences, one held in the USA and one in Europe. Participants were asked to register online and then log the most important questions that they felt the research community should tackle.

A steering committee reduced the 409 questions registered to 70 unique issues, from which participants were asked to vote for their 'top six'. In all, 420 participants from 48 countries voted; around half of voters classed themselves as clinicians.

The top research priority found was the identification of molecular signatures to select patients who could be spared chemotherapy. The second most pressing issue also involved chemotherapy, namely the identification of features to help clinicians choose the optimal chemotherapy regimen for individual patients.

While translational research in breast cancer has increased greatly over recent years, individual projects often reflect the immediate interests of the research group, rather than attempting to answer a specific question with potential to alter patient management. Identifying issues deemed important by the research community could help focus translational research resources, ensuring that opportunities for important clinical advances aren't missed.

"This appears to be a novel way to identify the most important challenges for improving breast cancer treatment and prevention" explains Professor Dowsett. "The work will allow investigators globally to select the most relevant clinical research questions in their efforts to translate the major advances in basic science to improvements in the clinical management of this common malignancy. I am grateful to the participants from 48 countries who made this possible."
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Notes to Editors:

* Professor Dowsett is also Professor of Translational Research in the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre based at The Institute of Cancer Research in London

Article: International web-based consultation on priorities for translational breast cancer research
Mitch Dowsett, Aron Goldhirsch, Dan Hayes, Hans-Joerg Senn, William Wood and Giuseppe Viale
Breast Cancer Research (in press)

During embargo, article available at: http://breast-cancer-research.com/imedia/5284000561515941_article.pdf?random=270601

After the embargo, article available from the journal website at: http://breast-cancer-research.com/

Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication

Please quote the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's Open Access policy.

If you would like to interview Professor Dowsett, please contact Naomi Wright, Press and PR Officer (The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust) on 020 7808 2107 or Naomi.wright@rmh.nhs.uk

Breast Cancer Research is an international, peer-reviewed online journal, publishing original research, reviews, commentaries and reports. Research articles of exceptional interest are published in all areas of biology and medicine relevant to breast cancer, including normal mammary gland biology, with special emphasis on the genetic, biochemical, and cellular basis of breast cancer. In addition, the journal publishes clinical studies with a biological basis, including Phase I and Phase II trials.

BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com) is a UK-based independent online publishing house committed to providing open access to peer-reviewed biological and medical research. This commitment is based on the view that immediate free access to research and the ability to freely archive and reuse published information is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.

BioMed Central currently publishes over 180 journals across biology and medicine. In addition to open-access original research, BioMed Central also publishes reviews, commentaries and other non-original-research content. Depending on the policies of the individual journal, this content may be open access or provided only to subscribers.

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust was the first hospital in the world dedicated to cancer treatment and research into the causes of cancer. Today the hospital with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, forms the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe with over 40,000 patients from the UK and abroad seen each year. It provides inpatient, day care and outpatient services for all areas of cancer treatment.

The hospital received the highest possible ranking of double excellent in the Healthcare Commission's Annual Health Check 2007, the only hospital in the country to do so for two years in a row.

BioMed Central

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