Scientists win award for transforming breast cancer treatment  

A team of scientists in the UK has been awarded for its work in transforming a breast cancer treatment. 

The researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust were named winners of the Team Science Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). 

The team was awarded for its “seminal translational discoveries in breast cancer research that have led to significant improvements in diagnosis and treatment,” according to the AACR. More so, the award recognised how the team led the discovery of new therapeutic approaches and how biomarkers could identify patients that would gain the most benefit from them. 

 The research  

The team’s work included the discovery of new therapeutic approaches, such as PARP inhibitors, that have changed how patients with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutant breast cancers are tested and treated. This has helped lead to improvements in how oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancers are treated. The team’s work also changed international guidelines for the number of radiotherapy doses used that reduces the length of the course of treatment.  

The team also generated the clinical evidence to justify using liquid biopsies to direct treatment and demonstrated how patients can be treated with fewer radiotherapy doses and identified a group who can do well without chemotherapy. 

The team is made up of researchers and clinicians from the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), the Breast Unit at The Royal Marsden, The Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden, and the Cancer Research UK-funded Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit at the ICR. 

Much of the ICR research cited in the award was funded by UK charities: Breast Cancer Now and Cancer Research UK. The Royal Marsden’s research was supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre.  

The award  

The Team Science Award was established in 2007 by the AACR and Eli Lilly and Company. The award recognises an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for innovative science that may have advanced our fundamental knowledge of cancer, or for applying existing knowledge to advancing the detection, diagnosis, prevention or treatment of cancer.  

The recognition comes 10 years after a joint team from the ICR and The Royal Marsden first won the award in 2012, which was the first time the award had gone to a team outside the US. 

Official comments

Professor Andrew Tutt, Head of the Division of Breast Cancer Research at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Award Team Leader, said: “It is a really great honour to receive this award from the AACR and we’re so grateful to receive it. It’s an endorsement of our strong, collaborative approach, where laboratory scientists and clinical academics work closely across the ICR and The Royal Marsden to understand the needs of patients, make discoveries to address them in the lab and turn them into improvements in treatment in the clinic through clinical trials research. 

“It’s been hugely motivating over the years to see how our progress, working with colleagues in the US and around the world, has made such a difference in treating breast cancer. We’re proud to be recognised like this and we will continue to build on this work so even more patients can benefit in the future.” 

Professor Stephen Johnston, Head of the The Breast Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are delighted that two global clinical trials in early breast cancer led by The Royal Marsden and ICR team have recently resulted in newly approved targeted treatments that are set to improve outcomes for breast cancer worldwide. Both trials represent a culmination of many years of scientific and clinical research by the team into understanding breast cancer biology, together with partnership collaborations that develop new therapies to evaluate in clinical trials. The close working relationship between our scientists and clinicians facilitates this effort and allows advances from basic research to reach patients quickly. By targeting the right treatment to the right patient at the right time we will ultimately deliver better and more effective care.” 


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