According to the latest data, every 15 seconds a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer.<sup>1</sup>
That means by the time you’ve finished scrolling through this short feature, 12 women (and their families) will have just received the devastating diagnosis.
Our research aims to improve outcomes for everyone affected by this disease. As we seek to identify novel tumour targets, and potential ways of interacting with these, we get closer each day to making this a reality.
We are often asked just how close we are to achieving this goal. Here we take you through our journey with breast cancer and tell you about where we believe hope lies…
Targeted treatment was first brought to patients with breast cancer in 1998, following the discovery of a biological target called the HER2 receptor, found in excess on the surface of a specific type of breast cancer cell (one that is HER2-positive).
For over three decades, the science of the HER2 pathway has led us forward. This research means that today people with HER2-positive breast cancer, a particularly aggressive type of disease, can have high survival rates when treated early.2,3,4,5
Why are good treatment outcomes not the case for every breast cancer patient?
Every breast cancer patient is different as it is a hugely complex disease. There are many different types and subtypes, each requiring an individualised treatment approach for the best outcomes.
The majority of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage where the goal of treatment is to cure.6,7
Despite remarkable progress in this setting to date, some patients will see their disease return in the long-term.5There is a critical need to continue to optimise early breast cancer care and to do more to prevent the disease evolving to an advanced, incurable stage.8
We are looking at new approaches to treatment that may offer hope, not only for people with HER2-positive breast cancer, but also for people who currently have few treatment options, such as those with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).
Women diagnosed with TNBC have a particularly poor prognosis. The complex nature of these tumours means progress in developing new treatments has been slow. Chemotherapy remains the standard of care for this type of disease.9
It’s been an immense challenge, but ongoing research efforts are finally bearing fruit for these challenging cancers.
We are investigating molecules that stimulate and strengthen a patient’s immune system, enabling their own cells to recognise and target mutated cancer cells. This is known as immunotherapy.
We believe there is an abundance of opportunity for improving outcomes for people with breast cancer. We are identifying new targets, refining and exploring immunotherapy approaches, and investigating new treatment combinations.
We are developing numerous important companion diagnostics and algorithms to help guide therapy.
By combining pharmaceutical science, strong diagnostic, digital and genomic capabilities, our research seeks to enable treatment tailored to each individual’s needs.
By following the science and working together with all those impacted and involved, to evolve patient care, we believe the future of breast cancer can continue to be transformed.
Learn more about cancer immunotherapy and why we place such importance on diagnostics and oncology research.
Ferlay J, et al. [Online]. Available from:
Dawood S, et al. J Clin Oncol. 2010;28(1):92-98.
Minckwitz G, et al. N Engl J Med. 2017;377:122-31.
Jackisch C, et al. HERA trial. Presented at: SABCS; 2015 Dec 6-10; San Antonio, TX, USA. Abstract #PD5-01.
Slamon D, et al. BCIRG 006 trial. Presented at: SABCS; 2015 Dec 6-10; San Antonio, TX, USA. Abstract #S5-04.
National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer. [Online]. Available from:
Scharl A, et al. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2015;75(7):683-91.
Cardoso F, et al. Ann Oncol. 2017;28(1):16-33.
Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Cancer Research UK. [Online]. Available from: