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Breakthrough Breast Cancer to open £5m research unit in Manchester

12 Sep 2007

Manchester is set to become one of the UK's foremost centres for breast cancer research following funding worth almost £5 million.

The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer has announced it is to give The University of Manchester £4.7 million over five years to found a research unit to investigate the earliest stages of the disease.

The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit at The University of Manchester, due to open in 2008, is one of three being launched across England and Scotland. It will be part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre adjacent to the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research and the Christie Hospital.
The unit will investigate the very earliest stages of breast cancer development to identify new ways to detect breast cancers and new targets for preventing a disease that affects 44,000 women and 300 men in the UK each year.

Defects in the way that cells interact and communicate with each other and with their surroundings are some of the first steps of cancer development. By studying these, the scientists' work could ultimately lead to more accurate and earlier diagnosis of the disease and methods to prevent its occurrence.

Professor Anthony Howell, Professor of Medical Oncology at The University of Manchester, who will be Director of the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit, Manchester, said: "I am honoured to be involved in establishing the Unit in Manchester. The Unit will draw on the enormous strengths in basic and clinical research which exist here and our work will focus on ways to diagnose breast cancer earlier and prevent the disease from occurring."

Professor Charles Streuli, Professor of Cell Biology in the University's Faculty of Life Sciences and Research Director of the new Unit, said: "The new funding will allow us to increase our already considerable research interests in this field and make Manchester one of the most concentrated breast cancer research clusters in Europe."

Professor Nigel Bundred, Professor in Surgical Oncology at the University Hospital of South Manchester and Christie Hospitals in Manchester and Clinical Director of the Unit, added: "The aim of our research in Manchester will be to increase the treatment options available to patients diagnosed with breast cancer and more accurately predict which therapies are most likely to succeed for any particular individual."

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "We already know that early diagnosis offers the best chances of survival and as a consequence of this and better treatments, more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before. However, there is still much to do - survival rates in the UK are among the lowest in Europe. This is why Breakthrough is pleased to be able to expand its investment into breast cancer which is sadly the most common cancer among UK women.

"We are delighted to be developing a dedicated breast cancer research unit in Manchester which has such a strong reputation for cancer research and look forward to working with the Manchester Cancer Research Centre."

Other units will be based in Edinburgh and London. They will each focus on a specific area of breast cancer research, increasing understanding of breast cancer to improve diagnosis, treatment, quality of life and prevention of the disease. All will have strong links with a major cancer hospital or breast unit and research institute or university and they will complement work already being undertaken at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research which was the UK's first dedicated centre for breast cancer research.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is dedicated to tackling breast cancer through research, campaigning and education. The charity needs to raise at least £18million a year to fund this work. There are 120 scientists currently working at the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre and the charity also supports major projects such as the Breakthrough Generations Study - the largest and most comprehensive study into the causes of breast cancer.

For more information about Breakthrough Breast Cancer and how to support our work, please visit:

Notes for editors

For more information please contact:
Laura Gibson
Press Office
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

Tel: +44 (0)20 7025 2488


Aeron Haworth
Media Officer
The University of Manchester

Tel: +44 (0)161 275 8383

Notes to Editors
Professor Anthony Howell is Professor of Medical Oncology at The University of Manchester based at the Christie Hospital and University Hospital of South Manchester (Genesis Prevention Centre). He is also the R&D Director of the Christie Hospital. He is Head of the Manchester Breast Centre and the new Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Unit. His major interest is in the biology, prevention and treatment of breast cancer. He has published, with his colleagues, more than 450 research papers mainly related to the breast and its diseases.

Professor Charles Streuli is Professor of Cell Biology in The University of Manchester's Faculty of Life Sciences. His research focuses on how breast epithelial cells develop and function, and how alterations in normal cellular conditions might provide a molecular basis for breast cancer. Professor Streuli established his research laboratory after obtaining a prestigious Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Science. This research group has made major contributions to understanding how the organisation of cells within complex tissue drives both their ability to differentiate and prevents the cells from entering an intrinsic suicide programme.

Professor Nigel Bundred is a Professor in Surgical Oncology at the Wythenshawe and Christie Hospitals in Manchester. He is also the R&D Director of Greater Manchester and Cheshire Cancer Research Network and has extensive experience in running clinical trials, particularly in preinvasive breast cancer (Ductal Carcinoma in situ) and endocrine therapy.  His laboratory research investigates mechanisms of growth of preinvasive breast cancer and resistance to treatment.

The Breakthrough Research Unit, Manchester - Breakthrough Research Unit, Manchester, will be based within the Manchester Cancer Research Centre adjacent to the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research and the Christie Hospital and associated with The University of Manchester's Faculties of Life Sciences and Medical and Human Sciences.

The Breakthrough Research Unit, Edinburgh - will be based at the soon-to-be-launched Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine with laboratories adjacent to the Edinburgh Breast Unit of the Western General Hospital

The Breakthrough Research Unit, London - will be located in Guy's Hospital, London adjacent to King's College London's Academic Breast Unit

Breakthrough Breast Cancer:
Breakthrough Breast Cancer is the UK's leading charity committed to fighting breast cancer through research, campaigning and education. Our essence comes from the thousands of people who are committed to a single vision - to work for a future free from the fear of breast cancer. More information can be found at: or through the Breakthrough Information Line 08080 100 200.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer in partnership with The Institute of Cancer Research has established the UK's first dedicated breast cancer research centre - The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre.
The Breakthrough Toby Robins Breast Cancer Research Centre is situated in the Mary-Jean Mitchell Green Building at the Chester Beatty Laboratories at The Institute of Cancer Research. It is the first dedicated breast cancer research facility in the UK and, under the directorship of Professor Alan Ashworth, its 120 scientists and clinicians are working on a programme of cutting edge biological research that ultimately aims to eradicate breast cancer, by discovering the causes of the disease, finding methods of prevention and developing new treatments and more effective diagnosis.

Breast Cancer:
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 of all cancers in women.
Over 44,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK and 35 women will die every day from this disease.
Breakthrough has developed a handbag-sized guide - Breast Cancer Risk Factors: The Facts - to help improve our understanding of the known causes of breast cancer. Please call 08080 100 200 for a copy.